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THE 

LIFE AND LETTERS 

OF 

WALTER H. PAGE 




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THE 

LIFE AND LETTERS OF 

WALTER H. PAGE 

BY 
BURTON J. HENDRICK 



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VOLUME 
I 



GARDEN CITY NEW YORK 

DOUBLE DAY, PAGE & COMPANY 

1923 






y\ 















COPYRIGHT, 1921, 1922, BY 

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT Or TRANSLATION 

INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINA\ IAN 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES 

AT 

THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN* CITY, N. Y. 



PREFATORY NOTE 

Among the many who have assisted in the preparation of 
this Biography especial acknowledgment is made to Mr. 
Irwin Laughlin, First Secretary and Counsellor of the Lon- 
don Embassy under Mr. Page. Mr. Page's papers show the 
high regard which he entertained for Mr. Laughlin s abilities 
and character, and the author similarly has found Mr. 
Laughlin s assistance indispensable. Mr. Laughlin has had 
the goodness to read the manuscript and make numerous sug- 
gestions, all for the purpose of reenforcing the accuracy of the 
narrative. The author gratefully remembers many long con- 
versations with Viscount Grey of Fallodon, in which Anglo- 
American relations from 1913 to 1916 were exhaustively 
canvassed and many side-lights thrown upon Mr. Page's con- 
duct of his difficult and delicate duties. The British Foreign 
Office most courteously gave the writer permission to examine 
a large number of documents in its archives bearing upon Mr. 
Page's ambassadorship and consented to the publication of 
several of the most important. 

B. J. H. 



CONTENTS 
VOLUME I 



PAGE 
1 



CHAPTER 

I. A Reconstruction Boyhood . 

II. Journalism 32 

III. "The Forgotten Man" 64 

IV. The Wilsonian Era Begins .... 102 
V. England Before the War .... 132 

VI. "Policy" and "Principle" in Mexico . 175 

VII. Personalities of the Mexican Problem 215 

VIII. Honour and Dishonour in Panama . 232 

IX. America Tries to Prevent the Euro- 
pean War 270 

X. The Grand Smash 301 

XI. England Under the Stress of War . 327 

XII. "Waging Neutrality" 357 

XIII. Germany's First Peace Drives . . . 398 



vn 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 
Walter H. Page Frontispiece 



FACING PAGE 



Allison Francis Page (1824-1899), father of Walter 

H. Page 20 

Catherine Raboteau Page (1831-1897), mother of 

Walter H. Page 21 

Walter H. Page in 1876, when he was a Fellow of 

Johns Hopkins University, Raltimore, Md. . 36 

Basil L. Gildersleeve, Professor of Greek, Johns 

Hopkins University, 1876-1915 37 

Walter H. Page (1899) from a photograph taken 

when he was editor of the Atlantic Monthly . 100 

Dr. Wallace Buttrick, President of the General 

Education Board 101 

Charles D. Mclver, of Greensboro, North Carolina, 

a leader in the cause of Southern Education . 116 

Woodrow Wilson in 1912 117 

Walter H. Page, from a photograph taken a few 
years before he became American Ambassador 
to Great Britain 292 

The British Foreign Office, Downing Street . . . 293 

ix 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



FACING PAGE 



No. 6 Grosvenor Square, the American Embassy 

under Mr. Page 308 

Irwin Laughlin, Secretary of the American Embassy 

at London, 1912-1917, Counsellor 1916-1919 309 



THE 

LIFE AND LETTERS 

OF 

WALTER H. PAGE 



THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF 
WALTER H. PAGE 

CHAPTER I 

A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 



THE earliest recollections of any man have great bio- 
graphical interest, and this is especially the case 
with Walter Page, for not the least dramatic aspect of his 
life was that it spanned the two greatest wars in history. 
His last weeks in England Page spent at Sandwich, on 
the coast of Kent; every day and every night he could 
hear the pounding of the great guns in France, as the 
Germans were making their last desperate attempt to 
reach Paris or the Channel ports. His memories of his 
childhood days in America were similarly the sights and 
sounds of war. Page was a North Carolina boy; he has 
himself recorded the impression that the Civil War left 
upon his mind. 

"One day," he writes, "when the cotton fields were 
white and the elm leaves were falling, in the soft autumn 
of the Southern climate wherein the sky is fathomlessly 
clear, the locomotive's whistle blew a much longer time 
than usual as the train approached Millworth. It did 
not stop at so small a station except when there was some- 
body to get off or to get on, and so long a blast meant that 
someone was coming. Sam and I ran down the avenue of 
elms to see who it was. Sam was my Negro companion, 

1 



2 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

philosopher, and friend. I was ten years old and Sam 
said that he was fourteen. There was constant talk 
about the war. Many men of the neighbourhood had 
gone away somewhere — that was certain; but Sam and I 
had a theory that the war was only a story. We had 
been fooled about old granny Thomas's bringing the baby 
and long ago we had been fooled also about Santa Claus. 
The war might be another such invention, and we some- 
times suspected that it was. But we found out the truth 
that day, and for this reason it is among my clearest early 
recollections. 

"For, when the train stopped, they put off a big box 
and gently laid it in the shade of the fence. The only 
man at the station was the man who had come to change 
the mail-bags; and he said that this was Billy Morris's 
coffin and that he had been killed in a battle. He asked 
us to stay with it till he could send word to Mr. Morris, 
who lived two miles away. The man came back pres- 
ently and leaned against the fence till old Mr. Morris 
arrived, an hour or more later. The lint of cotton was 
on his wagon, for he was hauling his crop to the gin when 
the sad news reached him; and he came in his shirt 
sleeves, his wife on the wagon seat with him. 

"All the neighbourhood gathered at the church, a 
funeral was preached and there was a long prayer for our 
success against the invaders, and Billy Morris was buried 
I remember that I wept the more because it now seemed 
to me that my doubt about the war had somehow done 
Billy Morris an injustice. Old Mrs. Gregory wept more 
loudly than anybody else; and she kept saying, while the 
service was going on, 'It'll be my John next.' In a 
little while, sine enough, John Gregory's coffin was put 
off the train, as Billy Morris's had been, and I regarded 
her as a woman gifted with prophecy. Other coffins, too, 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 5 

were put off from time to time. About the war there 
could no longer be a doubt. And, a little later, its reali- 
ties and horrors came nearer home to us, with swift, deep 
experiences. 

"One day my father took me to the camp and parade 
ground ten miles away, near the capital. The General 
and the Governor sat on horses and the soldiers marched 
by them and the band played. They were going to the 
front. There surely must be a war at the front, I told 
Sam that night. Still more coffins were brought home, 
too, as the months and the years passed; and the women 
of the neighbourhood used to come and spend whole days 
with my mother, sewing for the soldiers. So precious 
became woollen cloth that every rag was saved and the 
threads were unravelled to be spun and woven into new 
fabrics. And they baked bread and roasted chickens 
and sheep and pigs and made cakes, all to go to the 
soldiers at the front." 1 

The quality that is uppermost in the Page stock, both 
in the past and in the present generation, is that of the 
builder and the pioneer. The ancestor of the North Caro- 
lina Pages was a Lewis Page, who, in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century, left the original American home in 
Virginia, and started life anew in what was then regarded 
as the less civilized country to the south. Several ex- 
planations have survived as to the cause of his departure, 
one being that his interest in the rising tide of Methodism 
had made him uncongenial to his Church of England 
relatives; in the absence of definite knowledge, however, 
it may safely be assumed that the impelling motive was 
that love of seeking out new things, of constructing a 
new home in the wilderness, which has never forsaken his 



'From "The Southerner," Chapter I. The first chapter in this novel is practi- 
cally autobiographical, though fictitious names have been used. 



4 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

descendants. His son, Anderson Page, manifesting this 
same love of change, went farther south into Wake County, 
and acquired a plantation of a thousand acres about twelve 
miles north of Raleigh. He cultivated this estate with 
slaves, sending his abundant crops of cotton and tobacco 
to Petersburg, Virginia, a traffic that made him suf- 
ficiently prosperous to give several of his sons a college 
education. The son who is chiefly interesting at the 
present time, Allison Francis Page, the father of the future 
Ambassador, did not enjoy this opportunity. This fact 
in itself gives an insight into his character. While his 
brothers were grappling with Latin and Greek and the- 
ology — one of them became a Methodist preacher of the 
hortatory type for which the South is famous— we catch 
glimpses of the older man battling with the logs in the 
Cape Fear River, or penetrating the virgin pine forest, 
felling trees and converting its raw material to the uses 
of a growing civilization. Like many of the Page breed, 
this Page was a giant in size and in strength, as sound 
morally and physically as the mighty forests in which a 
considerable part of his life was spent, brave, determined, 
aggressive, domineering almost to the point of intoler- 
ance, deeply religious and abstemious — a mixture of the 
frontiersman and the Old Testament prophet. Walter 
Page dedicated one of his books 1 to his father, in words 
that accurately sum up his character and career. "To 
the honoured memory of my father, whose work was work 
that built up the commonwealth." Indeed, Frank Page 
— for this is the name by which he was generally known- 
spent his whole life in these constructive labours. He 
founded two towns in North Carolina, Cary and Aber- 
deen; in the City of Raleigh he constructed hotels and 
other buildings; his enterprising and restless spirit opened 

i"The Rebuilding of Old Commonwealths." (1902.) 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 5 

up Moore County — which includes the Pinehurst region; 
he scattered his logging camps and his sawmills all over 
the face of the earth ; and he constructed a railroad through 
the pine woods that made him a rich man. 

Though he was not especially versed in the learning of 
the schools, Walter Page's father had a mind that was 
keen and far-reaching. He was a pioneer in politics as 
he was in the practical concerns of life. Though he was 
the son of slave-holding progenitors and even owned 
slaves himself, he was not a believer in slavery. The 
country that he primarily loved was not Moore County 
or North Carolina, but the United States of America. 
In politics he was a Whig, which meant that, in the 
years preceding the Civil War, he was opposed to the 
extension of slavery and did not regard the election of 
Abraham Lincoln as a sufficient provocation for the seces- 
sion of the Southern States. It is therefore not surpris- 
ing that Walter Page, in the midst of the London turmoil 
of 1916, should have found his thoughts reverting to his 
father as he remembered him in Civil War days. That 
gaunt figure of America's time of agony proved an in- 
spiration and hope in the anxieties that assailed the Am- 
bassador. "When our Civil War began," wrote Page to 
Col. Edward M. House — the date was November 24, 
1916, one of the darkest days for the Allied cause — "every 
man who had a large and firm grip on economic facts 
foresaw how it would end — not when but how. Young 
as I was, I recall a conversation between my father and 
the most distinguished judge of his day in North Caro- 
lina. They put down on one side the number of men in 
the Confederate States, the number of ships, the number 
of manufactures, as nearly as they knew, the number of 
skilled workmen, the number of guns, the aggregate of 
wealth and of possible production. On the other side 



6 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

they put down the best estimate they could make of all 
these things in the Northern States. The Northern 
States made two (or I shouldn't wonder if it were three) 
times as good a showing in men and resources as the 
Confederacy had. 'Judge,' said my father, 'this is the 
most foolhardy enterprise that man ever undertook.' 
But Yancey of Alabama was about that time making 
five-hour speeches to thousands of people all over the 
South, declaring that one Southerner could whip five 
Yankees, and the awful slaughter began and darkened 
our childhood and put all our best men where they would 
see the sun no more. Our people had at last to accept 
worse terms than they could have got at the beginning. 
This World War, even more than our Civil War, is an 
economic struggle. Put down on either side the same 
items that my father and the judge put down and add the 
items up. You will see the inevitable result." 

If we are seeking an ancestral explanation for that 
moral ruggedness, that quick perception of the difference 
between right and wrong, that unobscured vision into 
men and events, and that deep devotion to America and 
to democracy which formed the fibre of Walter Page's 
being, we evidently need look no further than his father. 
But the son had qualities winch the older man did not 
possess — an enthusiasm for literature and learning, a love 
of the beautiful in Nature and in art, above all a gentleness 
of temperament and of manner. These qualities he held 
in common with his mother. On his father's side Page 
was undiluted English ; on his mother's he was French and 
English. Her father was John Samuel Raboteau, the 
descendant of Huguenot refugees who had fled from 
France on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; her 
mother was Esther Barclay, a member of a family which 
gave the name of Barclaysville to a small town half way 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 7 

between Raleigh and Fayetteville, North Carolina. It 
is a member of this tribe to whom Page once referred as 
the "vigorous Barclay who held her receptions to notable 
men in her bedroom during the years of her bedridden 
condition." She was the proprietor of the "Half Way 
House," a tavern located between Fayetteville and 
Raleigh; and in her old age she kept royal state, in the 
fashion which Page describes, for such as were socially en- 
titled to this consideration. The most vivid impression 
which her present-day descendants retain is that of her 
fervent devotion to the Southern cause. She carried the 
spirit of secession to such an extreme that she had the 
gate to her yard painted to give a complete presentment 
of the Confederate Flag. Walter Page's mother, the 
granddaughter of tins determined and rebellious lady, 
had also her positive quality, but in a somewhat more 
subdued form. She did not die until 1897, and so the 
recollection of her is fresh and vivid. As a mature woman 
she was undemonstrative and soft spoken; a Methodist 
of old-fashioned Wesleyan type, she dressed with a 
Quaker-like simplicity, her brown hair brushed flatly down 
upon a finely shaped head and her garments destitute of 
ruffles or ornamentation. The home which she directed 
was a home without playing cards or dancing or smok- 
ing or wine-bibbing or other worldly frivolities, yet the 
memories of her presence which Catherine Page has left 
are not at all austere. Duty was with her the prime 
consideration of life, and fundamental morals the first 
conceptions which she instilled in her children's growing 
minds, yet she had a quiet sense of humour and a real 
love of fun. 

She had also strong likes and dislikes, and was not 
especially hospitable to men and women who fell under 
her disapproval. A small North Carolina town, in the 



8 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

years preceding and following the Civil War, was not 
a fruitful soil for cultivating an interest in things intel- 
lectual, yet those who remember Walter Page's mother re- 
member her always with a book in her hand. She would 
read at her knitting and at her miscellaneous household 
duties, which were rather arduous in the straitened days 
that followed the war, and the books she read were al- 
ways substantial ones. Perhaps because her son Walter 
was in delicate health, perhaps because his early tastes 
and temperament were not unlike her own, perhaps be- 
cause he was her oldest surviving child, the fact remains 
that, of a family of eight, he was generally regarded as 
the child with whom she was especially sympathetic. 
The picture of mother and son in those early days is an 
altogether charming one. Page's mother was only twenty- 
four when he was born; she retained her youth for many 
years after that event, and during his early childhood, in 
appearance and manner, she was little more than a girl. 
When Walter was a small boy, he and his mother used to 
take long walks in the woods, sometimes spending the 
entire day, fishing along the brooks, hunting wild flowers, 
now and then pausing while the mother read pages of 
Dickens or of Scott. These experiences Page never for- 
got. Nearly all his letters to his mother — to whom, 
even in his busiest days in New York, he wrote constantly 
— have been accidentally destroyed, but a few scraps 
indicate the close spiritual bond that existed between 
the two. Always he seemed to think of his mother 
as young. Through his entire life, in whatever part 
of the world he might be, and however important 
was the work in which he might be engaged, Page never 
failed to write her a long and affectionate letter at Christ- 
mas. 

"Well, I've gossiped a night or two" — such is the 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 9 

conclusion of his Christmas letter of 1893, when Page was 
thirty -eight, with a growing family of his own — "till 
I've filled the paper — all such little news and less non- 
sense as most gossip and most letters are made of. But 
it is for you to read between the lines. That's where the 
love lies, dear mother. I wish you were here Christmas; 
we should welcome you as nobody else in the world can 
be welcomed. But wherever you are and though all 
the rest have the joy of seeing you, which is denied to me, 
never a Christmas comes but I feel as near you as I did 
years and years ago when we were young. (In those 
years big fish bit in old Wiley Bancom's pond by the rail- 
road: they must have been two inches long!) — I would 
give a year's growth to have the pleasure of having you 
here. You may be sure that every one of my children 
along with me will look with an added reverence toward 
the picture on the wall that greets me every morning, 
when we have our little Christmas frolics— the picture 
that little Katharine points to and says 'That's my grand- 
mudder.' — The years, as they come, every one, deepen 
my gratitude to you, as I better and better understand 
the significance of fife and every one adds to an affection 
that was never small. God bless you. 

"Walter." 

Such were the father and mother of Walter Hines Page; 
they were married at Fayetteville, North Carolina, July 5, 
1849; two children who preceded Walter died in infancy. 
The latter was born at Cary, August 15, 1855. Cary 
was a small village which Frank Page had created; in 
honour of the founder it was for several years known 
as Page's Station; the father himself changed the name to 
Cary, as a tribute to a temperance orator who caused 
something of a commotion in the neighbourhood in the 



10 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

early seventies. Cary was not then much of a town and 
has not since become one; but it was placed amid the 
scene of important historical events. Page's home was 
almost the last stopping place of Sherman's army on its 
march through Georgia and the Carolinas, and the Con- 
federacy came to an end, with Johnston's surrender of the 
last Confederate Army, at Durham, only fifteen miles from 
his native village. Walter, aboy of ten, his brother Robert, 
aged six, and the negro "companion" Tance — who figures 
as Sam in the extract quoted above — stood at the second- 
story window and watched Sherman's soldiers pass their 
house, in hot pursuit of General " Joe " Wheeler's cavalry. 
The thing that most astonished the children was the vast 
size of the army, which took all day to file by their home. 
They had never realized that either of the fighting forces 
could embrace such great numbers of men. Nor did the 
behaviour of the invading troops especially endear them to 
their unwilling hosts. Part of the cavalry encamped in the 
Page yard ; their horses ate the bark off the mimosa trees ; 
an army corps built its campfires under the great oaks, and 
cut their emblems on the trunks ; the officers took posses- 
sion of the house, a colonel making his headquarters in the 
parlour. Several looting cavalrymen ran their swords 
through the beds, probably looking for hidden silver; the 
hearth was torn up in the same feverish quest; angry at 
their failure, they emptied sacks of flour and scattered the 
contents in the bedrooms and on the stairs; for days the 
flour, intermingled with feathers from the bayonetted 
beds, formed a carpet all over the house. It is there- 
fore perhaps not strange that the feelings which Wal- 
ter entertained for Sherman's "bummers," despite his 
father's Whig principles, were those of most Southern com- 
munities. One day a kindly Northern soldier, sympathiz- 
ing with the boy because of the small rations left for the 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 11 

local population, invited him to join the officers' mess at 
dinner. Walter drew proudly back. 
"I'll starve before I'll eat with the Yankees," he said. 

"I slept that night on a trundle bed by my mother's," 
Page wrote years afterward, describing these early 
scenes, "for her room was the only room left for the 
family, and we had all lived there since the day before. 
The dining room and the kitchen were now superfluous, 
because there was nothing more to cook or to eat. . . . 
A week or more after the army corps had gone, I drove 
with my father to the capital one day, and almost every 
mile of the journey we saw a blue coat or a gray coat 
lying by the road, with bones or hair protruding — the 
unburied and the forgotten of either army. Thus I had 
come to know what war was, and death by violence was 
among the first deep impressions made on my mind. 
My emotions must have been violently dealt with and 
my sensibilities blunted — or sharpened? Who shall say? 
The wounded and the starved straggled home from hos- 
pitals and from prisons. There was old Mr. Sanford, the 
shoemaker, come back again, with a body so thin and a 
step so uncertain that I expected to see him fall to pieces. 
Mr. Larkin and Joe Tatum went on crutches; and I saw 
a man at the post-office one day whose cheek and ear had 
been torn away by a shell. Even when Sam and I sat 
on the river-bank fishing, and ought to have been silent 
lest the fish swim away, we told over in low tones the 
stories that we had heard of wounds and of deaths and of 
battles. 

"But there was the cheerful gentleness of my mother 
to draw my thoughts to different things. I can even now 
recall many special little plans that she made to keep my 
mind from battles. She hid the military cap that I had 



12 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

worn. She bought from me my military buttons and put 
them away. She would call me in and tell me pleasant 
stories of her own childhood. She would put down her 
work to make puzzles with me, and she read gentle 
books to me and kept away from me all the stories of the 
war and of death that she could. Whatever hardships 
befell her (and they must have been many) she kept a 
tender manner of resignation and of cheerful patience. 

"After a while the neighbourhood came to life again. 
There were more widows, more sonless mothers, more 
empty sleeves and wooden legs than anybody there had 
ever seen before. But the mimosa bloomed, the cotton was 
planted again, and the peach trees blossomed; and the 
barnyard and the stable again became full of life. For, 
when the army marched away, they, too, were as silent 
as an old battlefield. The last hen had been caught under 
the corn-crib by a 'Yankee' soldier, who had torn his 
coat in this brave raid. Aunt Maria told Sam that all 
Yankees were chicken thieves whether they 'brung 
freedom or no.' 

"Every year the cotton bloomed and ripened and 
opened white to the sun; for the ripening of the cotton 
and the running of the river and the turning of the mills 
make the thread not of my story only but of the story of 
our Southern land — of its institutions, of its misfortunes 
and of its place in the economy of the world ; and they will 
make the main threads of its story, I am sure, so long as 
the sun shines on our white fields and the rivers run — a 
story that is now rushing swiftly into a happier narrative 
of a broader day. The same women ^Yllo had guided the 
spindles in war-time were again at their tasks — they at 
least were left; but the machinery was now old and 
worked ill. Negro men, who had wandered a while 
looking for an invisible 'freedom,' came back and went to 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 13 

work on the farm from force of habit. They now re- 
ceived wages and bought their own food. That was the 
only apparent difference that freedom had brought them. 
"My Aunt Katharine came from the city for a visit, 
my Cousin Margaret with her. Through the orchard, out 
into the newly ploughed ground beyond, back over the 
lawn which was itself bravely repairing the hurt done by 
horses' hoofs and tent-poles, and under the oaks, which 
bore the scars of camp-fires, we two romped and played 
gentler games than camp and battle. One afternoon, as 
our mothers sat on the piazza and saw us come loaded 
with apple-blossoms, they said something (so I afterward 
learned) about the eternal blooming of childhood and of 
Nature — how sweet the early summer was in spite of the 
harrying of the land by war; for our gorgeous pageant of 
the seasons came on as if the earth had been the home of 
unbroken peace." 1 

ii 

And so it was a tragic world into which this boy Page 
had been born. He was ten years old when the Civil 
War came to an end, and his early life was therefore cast 
in a desolate country. Like all of his neighbours, Frank 
Page had been ruined by the war. Both the Southern 
and Northern armies had passed over the Page territory ; 
compared with the military depredations with which 
Page became familiar in the last years of his life, the 
Federal troops did not particularly misbehave, the at- 
tacks on hen roosts and the destruction of feather beds 
representing the extreme of their "atrocities"; but no 
country can entertain two great fighting forces without 
feeling the effects for a prolonged period. Life in this 
part of North Carolina again became reduced to its 

ll 'The Southerner," Chapter I. 



14 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

fundamentals. The old homesteads and the Negro huts 
were still left standing, and their interiors were for the 
most part unharmed, but nearly everything else had dis- 
appeared. Horses, cattle, hogs, livestock of all kinds had 
vanished before the advancing hosts of hungry soldiers; 
and there was one thing which was even more a rarity 
than these. That was money. Confederate veterans 
went around in their faded gray uniforms, not only be- 
cause they loved them, but because they did not have the 
wherewithal to buy new wardrobes. Judges, planters, 
and other dignified members of the community became 
hack drivers from the necessity of picking up a few small 
coins. Page's father was more fortunate than the rest, 
for he had one asset with which to accumulate a little 
liquid capital; he possessed a fine peach orchard, which 
was particularly productive in the summer of 1865, and 
the Northern soldiers, who drew their pay in money that 
had real value, developed a weakness for the fruit. Wal- 
ter Page, a boy of ten, used to take his peaches to Raleigh, 
and sell them to the "invader"; although he still dis- 
dained having companionable relations with the enemy, he 
was not above meeting them on a business footing; and 
the greenbacks and silver coin obtained in this way laid a 
new basis for the family fortunes. 

Despite this happy windfall, fife for the next few years 
proved an arduous affair. The horrors of reconstruction 
which followed the war were more agonizing than the 
war itself. Page's keenest inspiration in after life was 
democracy, in its several manifestations; but the form 
in which democracy first unrolled before his astonished 
eyes was a phase that could hardly inspire much en- 
thusiasm. Misguided sentimentalists and more malicious 
politicians in the North had suddenly endowed the Negro 
with the ballot. In practically all Southern States that 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 15 

meant government by Negroes — or what was even worse, 
government by a combination of Negroes and the most 
vicious white elements, including that which was native to 
the soil and that which had imported itself from the Nortli 
for this particular purpose. Thus the political vocabu- 
lary of Page's formative years consisted chiefly of such 
words as "scalawag," "carpet bagger," "regulator," 
"Union League," "Ku Klux Klan," and the like. The 
resulting confusion, political, social, and economic, did not 
completely amount to the destruction of a civilization, 
for underneath it all the old sleepy ante-bellum South 
still maintained its existence almost unchanged. The 
two most conspicuous and contrasting figures were the 
Confederate veteran walking around in a sleeveless coat 
and the sharp-featured New England school mar'm, 
armed with that spelling book which was overnight to 
change the African from a genial barbarian into an intel- 
ligent and conscientious social unit; but more persistent 
than these forces was that old dreamy, " unprogressive " 
Southland — the same country that Page himself de- 
scribed in an article on "An Old Southern Borough" 
which, as a young man, he contributed to the Atlantic 
Monthly. It was still the country where the "old- 
fashioned gentleman" was the controlling social influence, 
where a knowledge of Latin and Greek still made its 
possessor a person of consideration, where Emerson was 
a "Yankee philosopher" and therefore not important, 
where Shakespeare and Milton were looked upon almost 
as contemporary authors, where the Church and politics 
and the matrimonial history of friends and relatives 
formed the staple of conversation, and where a strong 
prejudice still existed against anything that resembled 
popular education. In the absence of more substantial 
employment, stump speaking, especially eloquent in praise 



16 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

of the South and its achievements in war, had become 
the leading industry. 

"Wat" Page — he is still known by this name in his 
old home — was a tall, rangy, curly-headed boy, with 
brown hair and brown eyes, fond of fishing and hunting, 
not especially robust, but conspicuously alert and vital. 
Such of his old playmates as survive recall chiefly his 
keenness of observation, his contagious laughter, his 
devotion to reading and to talk. He was also given to 
taking long walks in the woods, frequently with the soli- 
tary companionship of a book. Indeed, his extremely 
efficient family regarded him as a dreamer and were not 
entirely clear as to what purpose he was destined to serve 
in a community which, above all, demanded practical 
men. Such elementary schools as North Carolina pos- 
sessed had vanished in the war; the prevailing custom was 
for the better-conditioned families to join forces and 
engage a teacher for their assembled children. It was 
in such a primary school in Cary that Page learned the 
elementary branches, though his mother herself taught 
him to read and write. The boy showed such aptitude 
in his studies that his mother began to hope, though in 
no aggressive fashion, that he might some day become a 
Methodist clergyman; she had given him his middle name, 
"Hines," in honour of her favourite preacher — a kins- 
man. At the age of twelve Page was transferred to the 
Bingham School, then located at Mebane. This was the 
Eton of North Carolina, from both a social and an edu- 
cational standpoint. It was a military school; the boys 
all dressed in gray uniforms built on the plan of the Con- 
federate army; the hero constantly paraded before their 
imaginations was Robert E. Lee ; discipline was rigidly mil- 
itary ; more important, a high standard of honour was in- 
sisted upon. There was one thing a boy could not do at 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 17 

Bingham and remain in the school ; that was to cheat in 
class-rooms or at examinations. For this offence no second 
chance was given. "I cannot argue the subject," Page 
quotes Colonel Bingham saying to the distracted parent 
whose son had been dismissed on this charge, and who 
was begging for his reinstatement. "In fact, I have no 
power to reinstate your boy. I could not keep the honour 
of the school — I could not even keep the boys, if he were 
to return. They would appeal to their parents and most 
of them would be called home. They are the flower of 
the South, Sir!" And the social standards that con- 
trolled the thinking of the South for so many years after 
the war were strongly entrenched. "The son of a Con- 
federate general," Page writes, "if he were at all a decent 
fellow, had, of course, a higher social rank at the Bingham 
School than the son of a colonel. There was some dif- 
ficulty in deciding the exact rank of a judge or a governor, 
as a father; but the son of a preacher had a fair chance of 
a good social rating, especially of an Episcopalian clergy- 
man. A Presbyterian preacher came next in rank. I 
at first was at a social disadvantage. My father had been 
a Methodist — that was bad enough; but he had had no 
military title at all. If it had become known among the 
boys that he had been a 'Union man' — I used to shudder 
at the suspicion in which I should be held. And the 
fact that my father had held no military title did at last 
become known!" 

A single episode discloses that Page maintained his 
respect for the Bingham School to the end. In March, 
1918, as American Ambassador, he went up to Harrow 
and gave an informal talk to the boys on the United 
States. His hosts were so pleased that two prizes were 
established to commemorate his visit. One was for an 
essay by Harrow boys on the subject: "The Drawing 



18 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Together of America and Great Britain by Common 
Devotion to a Great Cause." A similar prize on the same 
subject was offered to the boys of some American school, 
and Page was asked to select the recipient. He promptly 
named his old Bingham School in North Carolina. 

It was at Bingham that Page gained his first knowledge 
of Greek, Latin, and mathematics, and he was an outstand- 
ing student in all three subjects. He had no particular 
liking for mathematics, but he could never understand 
why any one should find this branch of learning difficult ; 
he mastered it with the utmost ease and always stood 
high. In two or three years he had absorbed everything 
that Bingham could offer and was ready for the next 
step. But political conditions in North Carolina now had 
their influence upon Page's educational plans. Under 
ordinary conditions he would have entered the State 
University at Chapel Hill; it had been a great head- 
quarters in ante-bellum days for the prosperous families 
of the South. But by the time that Page was ready to go 
to college the University had fallen upon evil days. The 
forces which then ruled the state, acting in accordance 
with the new principles of racial equality, had opened the 
doors of this, one of the most aristocratic of Southern in- 
stitutions, to Negroes. The consequences may be easily 
imagined. The newly enfranchised blacks showed no in- 
clination for the groves of Academe, and not a single 
representative of the race applied for matriculation. 
The outraged white population turned its back upon this 
new type of coeducation; in the autumn of 1872 not a 
solitary white boy made his appearance. The old uni- 
versity therefore closed its doors for lack of students and 
for the next few years it became a pitiable victim to 
the worst vices of the reconstruction era. Politicians 
were awarded the presidency and the professorships as 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 19 

political pap, and the resources of the place, in money and 
books, were scattered to the wind. Page had therefore 
to find his education elsewhere. The deep religious feel- 
ings of his family quickly settled this point. The young 
man promptly betook himself to the backwoods of North 
Carolina and knocked at the doors of Trinity College, 
a Methodist Institution then located in Randolph County. 
Trinity has since changed its abiding place to Durham 
and has been transformed into one of the largest and most 
successful colleges of the new South; but in those days 
a famous Methodist divine and journalist described it 
as "a college with a few buildings that look like tobacco 
barns and a few teachers that look as though they ought 
to be worming tobacco." Page spent something more 
than a year at Trinity, entering in the autumn of 1871, 
and leaving in December, 1872. A few letters, written 
from this place, are scarcely more complimentary than 
the judgment passed above. They show that the young 
man was very unhappy. One long letter to his mother 
is nothing but a boyish diatribe against the place. " I do 
not care a horse apple for Trinity's distinction," he writes, 
and then he gives the reasons for this juvenile contempt. 
His first report, he says, will soon reach home; he warns 
his mother that it will be unfavourable, and he explains 
that this bad showing is the result of a deliberate plot. 
The boys who obtain high marks, Page declares, secure 
them usually by cheating or through the partisanship of 
the professors; a high grade therefore really means that 
the recipient is either a humbug or a bootlicker. Page 
had therefore attempted to keep his reputation unsullied 
by aiming at a low academic record ! The report on that 
three months' work, which still survives, discloses that 
Page's conspiracy against himself did not succeed, for his 
marks are all high. "Be sure to send him back" is the 



20 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

annotation on this document, indicating that Page had 
made a better impression on Trinity than Trinity had 
made on Page. 

But the rebellious young man did not return. After 
Christmas, 1872, his schoolboy letters reveal him at 
Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. Here again 
the atmosphere is Methodistical, but of a somewhat more 
genial type. "It was at Ashland that I first began to 
unfold," said Page afterward. "Dear old Ashland!" 
Dr. Duncan, the President, was a clergyman whose pul- 
pit oratory is still a tradition in the South, but, in ad- 
dition to his religious exaltation, he was an exceedingly 
lovable, companionable, and stimulating human being. 
Certainly there was no lack of the religious impulse. 
"We have a preacher president," Page writes his mother, 
"a preacher secretary, a preacher chaplain, and a dozen 
preacher students and three or more preachers are living 
here and twenty-five or thirty yet-to-be preachers in 
college!" In tins latter class Page evidently places 
himself; at least he gravely writes his mother — he was 
now eighteen — that he had definitely made up his mind 
to enter the Methodist ministry. He had a close friend — 
Wilbur Fisk Tillett — who cherished similar ambitions, 
and Page one day surprised Tillett by suggesting that, at 
the approaching Methodist Conference, they apply for 
licensing as "local preachers" for the next summer. His 
friend dissuaded him, however, and henceforth Page 
concentrated on more worldly studies. In many ways 
he was the life of the undergraduate body. His desire 
for an immediate theological campaign was merely that 
passion for doing things and for self-expression which 
were always conspicuous traits. His intense ambition 
as a boy is still remembered in this sleepy little village. 
He read every book in the sparse college library ; he tallied 




Allison Francis Page (1824-1899), father of Walter H. Page 




Catherine Raboteau Page (1831-1897), mother of 
Walter H. Page 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 21 

to his college mates and his professors on every imaginable 
subject; he led his associates in the miniature parliament 
—the Franklin Debating Society— to which he belonged; 
he wrote prose and verse at an astonishing rate; he 
explored the country for miles around, making frequent 
pilgrimages to the birthplace of Henry Clay, which is the 
chief historical glory of Ashland, and to that Hanover 
Court House which was the scene of the oratorical tri- 
umph of Patrick Henry; he flirted with the pretty girls 
in the village, and even had two half-serious love affairs 
in rapid succession ; he slept upon a hard mattress at night 
and imbibed more than the usual allotment of Greek, 
Latin, and mathematics in the daytime. One year he 
captured the Greek prize and the next the Sutherlin 
medal for oratory. With a fellow classicist he entered 
into a solemn compact to hold all their conversation, 
even on the most trivial topics, in Latin, with heavy 
penalties for careless lapses into English. Probably the 
linguistic result would have astonished Quintilian, but 
the experiment at least had a certain influence in im- 
proving the young man's Latinity. Another favourite 
dissipation was that of translating English masterpieces 
into the ancient tongue ; there still survives among Page's 
early papers a copy of Bryant's "Waterfowl" done into 
Latin iambics. As to Page's personal appearance, a 
designation coined by a fellow student who afterward be- 
came a famous editor gives the suggestion of a portrait. 
He called him one of the "seven slabs" of the college. 
And, as always, the adjectives which his contemporaries 
chiefly use in describing Page are "alert" and "positive." 
But Randolph-Macon did one great thing for Page. 
Like many small struggling Southern colleges it managed 
to assemble several instructors of real mental distinction. 
And at the time of Page's undergraduate life it possessed 



22 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

at least one great teacher. This was Thomas R. Price, 
afterward Professor of Greek at the University of Vir- 
ginia and Professor of English at Columbia University in 
New York. Professor Price took one forward step that 
has given him a permanent fame in the history of Southern 
education. He found that the greatest stumbling block 
to teaching Greek was not the conditional mood, but the 
fact that Ins hopeful charges were not sufficiently familiar 
with their mother tongue. The prayer that was always 
on Price's lips, and the one with which he made his boys 
most familiar, was that of a wise old Greek: "0 Great 
Apollo, send down the reviving rain upon our fields; pre- 
serve our flocks; ward off our enemies; and— build up our 
speech!" "It is irrational," he said, "absurd, almost 
criminal, to expect a young man, whose knowledge of 
English words and construction is scant and inexact, to 
put into English a difficult thought of Plato or an involved 
period of Cicero." Above all, it will be observed, Price's 
intellectual enthusiasm was the ancient tongue. A 
present-day argument for learning Greek and Latin is 
that thereby we improve our English; but Thomas R. 
Price advocated the teaching of English so that we might 
better understand the dead languages. To-day every 
great American educational institution has vast resources 
for teaching English literature; even in 1876, most 
American universities had their professors of English; 
but Price insisted on placing English on exactly the same 
footing as Greek and Latin. He himself became head of 
the new English school at Randolph-Macon; and Page 
himself at once became the favourite pupil. This dis- 
tinguished scholar— a fine figure with an imperial beard 
that suggested the Confederate officer — used to have 
Page to tea at least twice a week and at these meetings 
the young man was first introduced in an understanding 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 23 

way to Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Tennyson, 
and the other writers who became the literary passions 
of his maturer life. And Price did even more for Page; 
he passed him on to another place and to another teacher 
who extended Iris horizon. Up to the autumn of 1876 
Page had never gone farther North than Ashland ; he was 
still a Southern boy, speaking with the Southern drawl, 
living exclusively the thoughts and even the prejudices 
of the South. His family's broad-minded attitude had 
prevented him from acquiring a too restricted view of cer- 
tain problems that were then vexing both sections of the 
country ; however, his outlook was still a limited one, as his 
youthful correspondence shows. But in October of the 
centennial year a great prospect opened before him. 

in 

Two or three years previously an eccentric merchant 
named Johns Hopkins had died, leaving the larger part 
of his fortune to found a college or university in 
Baltimore. Johns Hopkins was not an educated man 
himself and his conception of a new college did not 
extend beyond creating something in the nature of a 
Yale or Harvard in Maryland. By a lucky chance, how- 
ever, a Yale graduate who was then the President of 
the University of California, Daniel Coit Gilman, was 
invited to come to Baltimore and discuss with the trustees 
his availability for the headship of the new institution. 
Dr. Gilman promptly informed his prospective employers 
that he would have no interest in associating himself with 
a new American college built upon the lines of those which 
then existed. Such a foundation would merely be a du- 
plication of work already well done elsewhere and therefore 
a waste of money and effort. He proposed that this 
large endowment should be used, not for the erection of 



24 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

expensive architecture, but primarily for seeking out, in 
all parts of the world, the best professorial brains in certain 
approved branches of learning. In the same spirit he 
suggested that a similarly selective process be adopted in 
the choice of students: that only those American boys 
who had displayed exceptional promise should be admitted 
and that part of the university funds should be used to 
pay the expenses of twenty young men who, in under- 
graduate work at other colleges, stood head and shoulders 
above their contemporaries. The bringing together of 
these two sets of brains for graduate study would con- 
stitute the new university. A few rooms in the nearest 
dwelling house would suffice for headquarters. Dr. Gil- 
man's scheme was approved; he became President on these 
terms; he gathered his faculty not only in the United 
States but in England, and he collected his first body of 
students, especially his first twenty fellows, with the same 
minute care. 

It seems almost a miracle that an inexperienced youth 
in a little Methodist college in Virginia should have been 
chosen as one of these first twenty fellows, and it is a suf- 
ficient tribute to the impression that Page must have 
made upon all who met him that he should have won this 
great academic distinction. He was only twenty-one at 
the time— the youngest of a group nearly every member 
of which became distinguished in after fife. He won a 
Fellowship in Greek. This in itself was a great good 
fortune; even greater was the fact that his new life 
brought him into immediate contact with a scholar of 
great genius and lovableness. Someone has said that 
America has produced four scholars of the very first 
rank — Agassiz in natural science, Whitney in philology, 
Willard Gibbs in physics, and Gildersleeve in Greek. It 
was the last of these who now took Walter Page in charge. 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 25 

The atmosphere of Johns Hopkins was quite different 
from anything which the young man had previously 
known. The university gave a great shock to that part 
of the American community with which Page had spent 
his life by beginning its first session in October, 1876, 
without an opening prayer. Instead Thomas H. Huxley 
was invited from England to deliver a scientific address — 
an address which now has an honoured place in his col- 
lected works. The absence of prayer and the presence 
of so audacious a Darwinian as Huxley caused a tre- 
mendous excitement in the public prints, the religious 
press, and the evangelical pulpit. In the minds of Gilman 
and his abettors, however, all this was intended to em- 
phasize the fact that Johns Hopkins was a real university, 
in which the unbiased truth was to be the only aim. And 
certainly this was the spirit of the institution. "Gentle- 
men, you must fight your own torch," was the admonition 
of President Gilman, in his welcoming address to his 
twenty fellows; intellectual independence, freedom from 
the trammels of tradition, were thus to be the directing 
ideas. One of Page's associates was Josiah Royce, who 
afterward had a distinguished career in philosophy at 
Harvard. "The beginnings of Johns Hopkins," he after- 
ward wrote, "was a dawn wherein it was bliss to be alive. 
The air was full of noteworthy work done by the older 
men of the place and of hopes that one might find a way to 
get a little working power one's self. One longed to be 
a doer of the word, not a hearer only, a creator of his 
own infinitesimal fraction of the product, bound in God's 
name to produce when the time came." 

A choice group of five aspiring Grecians, of whom Page 
was one, periodically gathered around a long pine table 
in a second-story room of an old dwelling house on How- 
ard Street, with Professor Gildersleeve at the head. The 



26 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

process of teaching was thus the intimate contact of 
mind with mind. Here in the course of nearly two years' 
residence, Page was led by Professor Gildersleeve into 
the closest communion with the great minds of the an- 
cient world and gained that intimate knowledge of their 
written word which was the basis of his mental equip- 
ment. "Professor Gildersleeve, splendid scholar that he 
is!" he wrote to a friend in North Carolina. "He makes 
me grow wonderfully. When I have a chance to enjoy 
y-Eschylus as I have now, I go to work on those immortal 
pieces with a pleasure that swallows up everything." To 
the extent that Gildersleeve opened up the literary treas- 
ures of the past — and no man had a greater appreciation 
of his favourite authors than this fine humanist — Page's 
life was one of unalloyed delight. But there was another 
side to the picture. This little company of scholars was 
composed of men who aspired to no ordinary knowledge 
of Greek ; they expected to devote their entire lives to the 
subject, to edit Greek texts, and to hold Greek chairs 
at the leading American universities. Such, indeed, has 
been the career of nearly all members of the group. The 
Greek tragedies were therefore read for other things than 
their stylistic and dramatic values. The sons of Ger- 
mania then exercised a profound influence on American 
education ; Professor Gildersleeve himself was a graduate 
of Gottingen, and the necessity of "settling hoti's busi- 
ness" was strong in Ins seminar. Gildersleeve was a 
writer of English who developed real style; as a Greek 
scholar, his fame rests chiefly upon his work in the field 
of historical syntax. He assumed that his students could 
read Greek as easily as they could read French, and the 
really important tasks he set them had to do with the 
most abstruse fields of philology. For work of this kind 
Page had little interest and less inclination. When Pvo* 



A RECONSTRUCTION ROYHOOD 27 

fessor Gildersleeve would assign him the adverb vpCv, 
and direct him to study the peculiarities of its use from 
Homer down to the Byzantine writers, he found him- 
self in pretty deep waters. Was it conceivable that a 
man could spend a lifetime in an occupation of this kind? 
By pursuing such studies Gildersleeve and his most ad- 
vanced pupils uncovered many new facts about the 
language and even found hitherto unsuspected beauties; 
but Page's letters show that this sort of effort was ex- 
tremely uncongenial. He fulminates against the "gram- 
marians" and begins to think that perhaps, after all, a 
career of erudite scholarship is not the ideal existence. 
"Learn to look on me as a Greek drudge," he writes, 
"somewhere pounding into men and boys a faint hint of 
the beauty of old Greekdom. That's most probably what 
I shall come to before many years. I am sure that I 
have mistaken my life work, if I consider Greek my life- 
work. In truth at times I am tempted to throw the whole 
thing away. . . . But without a home feeling in 
Greek literature no man can lay claim to high culture." 
So he would keep at it for three or four years and "then 
leave it as a man's work." Despite these despairing 
words Page acquired a living knowledge of Greek that 
was one of his choicest possessions through life. That 
he made a greater success than his self-depreciation would 
imply is evident from the fact that his Fellowship was re- 
newed for the next year. 

But the truth is that the world was tugging at Page 
more insistently than the cloister. "Speaking grammat- 
ically," writes Prof. E. G. Sihler, one of Page's fellow 
students of that time, in his "Confessions and Convictions 
of a Classicist," "Page was interested in that one of the 
main tenses which we call the Present." In his after 
life, amid all the excitements of journalism, Page could 



28 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

take a brief vacation and spend it with Ulysses by the 
sea; but actuality and human activity charmed him even 
more than did the heroes of the ancient world. He 
went somewhat into Baltimore society, but not ex- 
tensively; he joined a club whose membership comprised 
the leading intellectual men of the town; probably his 
most congenial associations, however, came of the Satur- 
day night meetings of the fellows in Hopkins Hall, where, 
over pipes and steins of beer, they passed in review all 
the questions of the day. Page was still the Southern 
boy, with the strange notions about the North and 
Northern people which were the inheritance of many 
years' misunderstandings. He writes of one fellow stu- 
dent to whom he had taken a liking. "He is that rare 
thing," he says, "a Yankee Christian gentleman." He par- 
ticularly dislikes one of his instructors, but, as he explains, 
he is a native of Connecticut, and Connecticut, I sup- 
pose, is capable of producing any unholy human phenom- 
enon." Speaking of a beautiful and well mannered Greek 
girl whom he had met, he writes: "The little creature 
might be taken for a Southern girl, but never for a Yankee. 
She has an easy manner and even an air of gentility about 
her that doesn't appear north of Mason and Dixon's Line. 
Indeed, however much the Southern race (I say race in- 
tentionally: Yankeedom is the home of another race 
from us) however much the Southern race owes its 
strength to Anglo-Saxon blood, it owes its beauty and 
gracefulness to the Southern climate and culture. Who 
says that we are not an improvement on the English? 
An improvement in a happy combination of mental graces 
and Saxon force? " This sort of thing is especially enter- 
taining in the youthful Page, for it is precisely against 
this kind of complacency that, as a mature man, he 
directed his choicest ridicule. As an editor and writer 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 29 

his energies were devoted to reconciling North and South, 
and Johns Hopkins itself had much to do with opening 
his eyes. Its young men and its professors were gathered 
from all parts of the country ; a student, if his mind was 
awake, learned more than Greek and mathematics; he 
learned much about that far-flung nation known as the 
United States. 

And Page did not confine his work exclusively to the 
curriculum. He writes that he is regularly attending 
a German Sunday School, not, however, from religious 
motives, but from a desire to improve his colloquial 
German. "Is this courting the Devil for knowledge? " 
he asks. And all this time he was engaging in a delightful 
correspondence — from which these quotations are taken 
— with a young woman in North Carolina, his cousin. 
About this time this cousin began spending her summers 
in the Page home at Cary ; her great interest in books made 
the two young people good friends and companions. It was 
she who first introduced Page to certain Southern writers, 
especially Timrod and Sidney Lanier, and, when Page 
left for Johns Hopkins, the two entered into a compact 
for a systematic reading and study of the English poets. 
According to this plan, certain parts of Tennyson or 
Chaucer would be set aside for a particular week's read- 
ing; then both would write the impressions gained and the 
criticisms which they assumed to make, and send the 
product to the other. The plan was carried out more 
faithfully than is usually the case in such arrangements ; a 
large number of Page's letters survive and give a complete 
history of his mental progress. There are lengthy dis- 
quisitions on Wordsworth, Browning, Byron, Shelley, 
Matthew Arnold, and the like. These letters also show 
that Page, as a relaxation from Greek roots and syntax, 
was indulging in poetic flights of his own ; his efforts, which 



30 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

he encloses in his letters, are mainly imitations of the 
particular poet in whom he was at the moment interested. 
This correspondence also takes Page to Germany, in 
which country he spent the larger part of the summer 
of 1877. This choice of the Fatherland as a place of 
pilgrimage was probably merely a reflection of the en- 
thusiasm for German educational methods which then 
prevailed in the United States, especially at Johns Hop- 
kins. Page's letters are the usual traveller's descriptions 
of unfamiliar customs, museums, libraries, and the like; 
so far as enlarging his outlook was concerned the ex- 
perience does not seem to have been especially profitable. 
He returned to Baltimore in the autumn of 1877, but 
only for a few months. He had pretty definitely aban- 
doned his plan of devoting his life to Greek scholarship. 
As a mental stimulus, as a recreation from the cares of 
life, his Greek authors would always be a first love, as 
they proved to be; but he had abandoned his early am- 
bition of making them his everyday occupation and means 
of livelihood. Of course there was only one career for a 
man of his leanings, and, more and more, his mind was 
tinning to journalism. For only one brief period did he 
again listen to the temptations of a scholar's existence. 
The university of his native state invited him to lecture 
in the summer school of 1878; he took Shakespeare for 
his subject, and made so great a success that there was 
some discussion of his settling down permanently at 
Chapel Hill in the chair of Greek. Had the offer def- 
initely been made Page would probably have accepted, 
but difficulties arose. Page was no longer orthodox in 
his religious views; he had long outgrown dogma and 
could only smile at the recollection that he had once 
thought of becoming a clergyman. But a rationalist 
at the University of North Carolina in 1878 could hardly 



A RECONSTRUCTION BOYHOOD 31 

be endured. The offer, therefore, fortunately was not 
made. Afterward Page was much criticized for having 
left his native state at a time when it especially needed 
young men of his type. It may therefore be recorded 
that, if there were any blame at all, it rested upon North 
Carolina. He refers to his disappointment in a letter in 
February, 1879 — a letter that proved to be a prophecy. 
" I shall some day buy a home," he says, "where I was net 
allowed to work for one, and be laid away in the soil that 
I love. I wanted to work for the old state ; it had no need 
for it, it seems. " 



CHAPTER II 

JOURNALISM 



THE five years from 1878 to 1883 Page spent in various 
places, engaged, for the larger part of the time, in 
several kinds of journalistic work. It was his period of 
struggle and of preparation. Like many American public 
men he served a brief apprenticeship — in his case, a very 
brief one — as a pedagogue. In the autumn of 1878 he 
went to Louisville, Kentucky, and taught English for a 
year at the Boys ' Lligh School. But he presently found 
an occupation in this progressive city which proved far 
more absorbing. A few months before his arrival certain 
energetic spirits had founded a weekly paper, the Age, 
a journal which, they hoped, would fill the place in the 
Southern States which the very successful New York 
Nation, under the editorship of Godkin, was then occupy- 
ing in the North. Page at once began contributing lead- 
ing articles on literary and political topics to this 
publication; the work proved so congenial that he pur- 
chased — on notes — a controlling interest in the new ven- 
ture and became its directing spirit. The Age was in 
every way a worthy enterprise ; in the dignity of its make- 
up and the high literary standards at which it aimed it 
imitated the London Spectator. Perhaps Page obtained 
a thousand dollars' worth of fun out of his investment; if 
so, that represented his entire profit. He now learned 
a lesson which was emphasized in his after career as editor 
and publisher, and that was that the Southern States pro- 

32 



JOURNALISM 33 

vided a poor market for books or periodicals. The net 
result of the proceeding was that, at the age of twenty- 
three, he found himself out of a job and considerably in 
debt. 

He has himself rapidly sketched his varied activities 
of the next five years : 

"After trying in vain," he writes, "to get work to do 
on any newspaper in North Carolina, I advertised for a 
job in journalism — any sort of a job. By a queer accident 
— a fortunate one for me — the owner of the St. Joseph, Mis- 
souri, Gazette, answered the advertisement. Why he did it, 
I never found out. He was in the same sort of desperate 
need of a newspaper man as I was in desperate need of a 
job. I knew nothing about him: he knew nothing about 
me. I knew nothing about newspaper work. I had done 
nothing since I left the University but teach English in the 
Louisville, Kentucky, High School for boys one winter 
and lecture at the summer school at Chapel Hill one sum- 
mer. I made up my mind to go into journalism. But 
journalism didn't seem in any hurry to make up its mind 
to admit me. Not only did all the papers in North Caro- 
lina decline my requests for work, but such of them in 
Baltimore and Louisville as I tried said 'No.' So I bor- 
rowed $50 and set out to St. Joe, Missouri, where I didn 't 
know a human being. I became a reporter. At first 
I reported the price of cattle — went to the stockyards, etc. 
My salary came near to paying my board and lodging, but 
it didn't quite do it. But I had a good time in St. Joe 
for somewhat more than a year. There were interesting 
people there. I came to know something about Western 
life. Kansas was across the river. I often went there. 
I came to know Kansas City, St. Louis — a good deal of 
the West. After a while I was made editor of the pa- 
per. What a rousing political campaign or two we had ! 



34 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Then — I had done that kind of a job as long as I cared 
to. Every swashbuckling campaign is like every other 
one. Why do two? Besides, I knew my trade. I had 
done everything on a daily paper from stockyard reports 
to political editorials and heavy literary articles. In the 
meantime I had written several magazine articles and 
done other such jobs. I got leave of absence for a month 
or two. I wrote to several of the principal papers in 
Chicago, New York, and Boston and told them that I 
was going down South to make political and social studies 
and that I was going to send them my letters. I hoped 
they'd publish them. 

"That's all I could say. I could make no engagement; 
they didn't know me. I didn't even ask for an engage- 
ment. I told them simply this : that I 'd write letters and 
send them; and I prayed heaven that they'd print them 
and pay for them. Then off I went with my little money 
in my pocket — about enough to get to New Orleans. I 
travelled and I wrote. I went all over the South. I sent 
letters and letters and letters. All the papers published all 
that I sent them and I was rolling in wealth ! I had money 
in my pocket for the first time in my life. Then I went 
back to St. Joe and resigned ; for the (old) New York World 
had asked me to go to the Atlanta Exposition as a cor- 
respondent. I went. I wrote and kept writing. How 
kind Henry Grady was to me! But at last the Expo- 
sition ended. I was out of a job. I applied to the 
Constitution. No, they wouldn't have me. I never got 
a job in my life that I asked for! But all my life better 
jobs have been given me than I dared ask for. Well — 
I was at the end of my rope in Atlanta and I was trying to 
make a living in any honest way I could when one day a 
telegram came from the New York World (it was the old 
World, which was one of the best of the dailies in its 



JOURNALISM 35 

literary quality) asking me to come to New York. I had 
never seen a man on the paper — had never been in New 
York except for a day when I landed there on a return 
voyage from a European trip that I took during one va- 
cation when I was in the University. Then I went to New 
York straight and quickly. I had an interesting experience 
on the old World, writing literary matter chiefly, an edi- 
torial now and then, and I was frequently sent as a cor- 
respondent on interesting errands. I travelled all over the 
country with the Tariff Commission. I spent one winter 
in Washington as a sort of editorial correspondent while 
the tariff bill was going through Congress. Then, one 
day, the World was sold to Mr. Pulitzer and all the staff 
resigned. The character of the paper changed." 

What better training could a journalist ask for than 
this? Page was only twenty-eight when these five years 
came to an end; but his fife had been a comprehensive 
education in human contact, in the course of which he had 
picked up many things that were not included in the rou- 
tine of Johns Hopkins University. From Athens to St. 
Joe, from the comedies of Aristophanes to the stockyards 
and political conventions of Kansas City — the transition 
may possibly have been an abrupt one, but it is not likely 
that Page so regarded it. For books and the personal 
relation both appealed to him, in almost equal proportions, 
as essentials to the fully rounded man. Merely from the 
standpoint of geography, Page's achievement had been an 
important one; how many Americans, at the age of 
twenty-eight, have such an extensive mileage to their 
credit? Page had spent his childhood — and his childhood 
only — in North Carolina; he had passed his youth in 
Virginia and Maryland; before he was twenty-three he had 
lived several months in Germany, and, on his return 
voyage, he had sailed by the white cliffs of England, and, 



36 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

from the deck of his steamer, had caught glimpses of that 
Isle of Wight which then held his youthful favourite Ten- 
nyson. He had added to these experiences a winter in 
Kentucky and a sojourn of nearly two years in Missouri. 
His Southern trip, to which Page refers in the above, had 
taken him through Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, 
Georgia, and Louisiana; he had visited the West again in 
1882, spending a considerable time in all the large cities, 
Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Leadville, Salt Lake, and from 
the latter point he had travelled extensively through 
Mormondom. The several months spent in Atlanta had 
given the young correspondent a glimpse into the new 
South, for this energetic city embodied a Southern spirit 
that was several decades removed from the Civil War. 
After this came nearly two years in New York and Wash- 
ington, where Page gained his first insight into Federal 
politics; in particular, as a correspondent attached to the 
Tariff Commission — an assignment that again started 
him on his travels to industrial centres — he came into con- 
tact, for the first time, with the mechanism of framing the 
great American tariff. And during this period Page was 
not only forming a first-hand acquaintance with the pass- 
ing scene, but also with important actors in it. The mere 
fact that, on the St. Joseph Gazette, he succeeded Eugene 
Field — "a good fellow named Page is going to take my 
desk," said the careless poet, "I hope he will succeed to 
my debts too" — always remained a pleasant memory. 
He entered zealously into the life of this active commun- 
ity ; his love of talk and disputation, his interest in politics, 
his hearty laugh, his vigorous handclasp, his animation of 
body and of spirit, and his sunny outlook on men and 
events — these are the traits that his old friends in this 
town, some of whom still survive, associate with the 
juvenile editor. In his Southern trip Page called — self- 




Walter H. Page in 1876, when he was a Fellow of Johns Hopkins 
University, Baltimore, Md 




Basil L. Gildersleeve, Professor of Greek, Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity, 1876-1915 



JOURNALISM 37 

invited — upon Jefferson Davis and was cordially re- 
ceived. At Atlanta, as he records above, he made friends 
with that chivalric champion of a resurrected South, 
Henry Grady; here also he obtained fugitive glimpses 
of a struggling and briefless lawyer, who, like Page, was 
interested more in books and writing than in the hum- 
drum of professional life, and who was then engaged 
in putting together a brochure on Congressional Govern- 
ment which immediately gave him a national standing. 
The name of this sympathetic acquaintance was Wood- 
row Wilson. 

Another important event had taken place, for, at St. 
Louis, on November 15, 1880, Page had married Miss 
Willia Alice Wilson. Miss Wilson was the daughter of a 
Scotch physician, Dr. William Wilson, who had settled 
in Michigan, near Detroit, in 1832. When she was a 
small child she went with her sister's family — her father 
had died seven years before — to North Carolina, near 
Gary; and she and Page had been childhood friends and 
schoolmates. At the time of the wedding, Page was 
editor of the St. Joseph Gazette; the fact that he had 
attained this position, five months after starting at the 
bottom, sufficiently discloses his aptitude for journalistic 
work. 

Page had now outgrown any Southern particularism 
with which he may have started life. He no longer found 
his country exclusively in the area south of the Potomac ; 
he had made his own the West, the North — New York, 
Chicago, Denver, as well as Atlanta and Raleigh. It is 
worth while insisting on this fact, for the cultivation of a 
wide-sweeping Americanism and a profound faith in de- 
mocracy became the qualities that will loom most largely in 
his career from this time forward. It is necessary only to 
read the newspaper letters which he wrote on his Southern 



38 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

trip in 1881 to understand how early his mind seized this 
new point of view. Many things which now fell Under 
his observant eye in the Southern States greatly irritated 
him and with his characteristic impulsiveness he pictured 
these traits in pungent phrase. The atmosphere of 
shiftlessness that too generally prevailed in some localities; 
the gangs of tobacco-chewing loafers assembled around rail- 
way stations; the listless Negroes that seemed to overhang 
the whole country like a black cloud ; the plantation man- 
sions in a sad state of disrepair; the old unoccupied slave 
huts overgrown with weeds; the unpainted and broken-down 
fences; the rich soil that was crudely and wastefully cul- 
tivated with a single crop — the youthful social philosopher 
found himself comparing these vestigia of a half-moribund 
civilization with the vibrant cities of the North, the beau- 
tiful white and green villages of New England, and the 
fertile prairie farms of the West. "Even the dogs," 
he said, "look old-fashioned." Oh, for a change in his 
beloved South— a change of almost any kind! "Even 
a heresy, if it be bright and fresh, would be a relief. You 
feel as if you wished to see some kind of an effort put 
forth, a discussion, a fight, a runaway, anything to make 
the blood go faster." Wherever Page saw signs of a new 
spirit — and he saw many — he recorded them with an 
eagerness which showed his loyalty to the section of his 
birth. The splitting up of great plantations into small 
farms he put down as one of the indications of a new 
day. A growing tendency to educate, not only the 
white child, but the Negro, inspired a similar tribute. 
But he rejoiced most over the decreasing bitterness of the 
masses over the memories of the Civil War, and dis- 
covered, with satisfaction, that any remaining ill-feeling 
was a heritage left not by the Union soldier, but by 
the carpetbagger. 



JOURNALISM 39 

And one scene is worth preserving, for it illustrates not 
only the zeal of Page himself for the common country, but 
the changing attitude of the Southern people. It was 
enacted at Martin, Tennessee, on the evening of July 2, 
1881. Page was spending a few hours in the village 
grocery, discussing things in general with the local yeo- 
manry, when the telegraph operator came from the post 
office with rather more than his usual expedition and ex- 
citement. He was frantically waving a yellow slip which 
bore the news that President Garfield had been shot. 
Garfield had been an energetic and a successful general 
in the war and his subsequent course in Congress, where 
he had joined the radical Republicans, had not caused the 
South to look upon him as a friend. But these farmers 
responded to this shock, not like sectionalists, but like 
Americans. "Every man of them," Page records, "ex- 
pressed almost a personal sorrow. Little was said of 
politics or of parties. Mr. Garfield was President of the 
United States — that was enough. A dozen voices spoke 
the great gratification that the assassin was not a 
Southern man. It was an affecting scene to see weather- 
beaten old countrymen so profoundly agitated — men 
who yesterday I should have supposed hardly knew 
and certainly did not seem to care who was President. 
The great centres of population, of politicians, and of 
thought may be profoundly agitated to-night, but no 
more patriotic sorrow and humiliation is felt anywhere 
by any men than by these old backwoods ex-Confeder- 
ates." 

Page himself was so stirred by the news that he as- 
cended a cracker barrel, and made a speech to the as- 
sembled countrymen, preaching to responsive ears the. 
theme of North and South, now reunited in a common 
sorrow. Thus, by the time he was twenty-six, Page, at 



40 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

any rate in respect to his Americanism, was a full-grown 



man. 



ii 

A few years afterward Page had an opportunity of dis- 
cussing this, his favourite topic, with the American whom 
he most admired. Perhaps the finest thing in the career of 
Grover Cleveland was the influence which he exerted upon 
young men. After the sordid political transactions of the 
reconstruction period and after the orgy of partisanship 
which had followed the Civil War, this new figure, acceding 
to the Presidency in 1885, came as an inspiration to millions 
of zealous and intelligent young college-bred Americans. 
One of the first to feel the new spell was Walter Page; 
Mr. Cleveland was perhaps the most important influence 
in forming his public ideals. Of everything that Cleve- 
land represented — civil service reform; the cleansing of 
politics, state and national; the reduction in the tariff; 
a foreign policy which, without degenerating into trucu- 
lence, manfully upheld the rights of American citizens; 
a determination to curb the growing pension evil; the 
doctrine that the Government was something to be served 
and not something to be plundered — Page became an 
active and brilliant journalistic advocate. It was there- 
fore a great day in his life when, on a trip to Washington 
in the autumn of 1885, he had an hour's private conver- 
sation with President Cleveland, and it was entirely char- 
acteristic of Page that he should make the conversation 
take the turn of a discussion of the so-called Southern 
question. 

"In the White House at Washington," Page wrote 
about this visit, "is an honest, plain, strong man, a man 
of wonderfully broad information and of most uncommon 
industry. He has always been a Democrat. He is a dis- 



JOURNALISM 41 

tinguished lawyer and a scholar on all public questions. 
He is as frank and patriotic and sincere as any man that 
ever won the high place he holds. Within less than a 
year he has done so well and so wisely that he has dis- 
appointed his enemies and won their admiration. He is 
as unselfish as he is great. He is one of the most in- 
dustrious men in the world. He rises early and works 
late and does not waste his time — all because his time is 
now not his own but the Republic's, whose most honoured 
servant he is. I count it among the most inspiring ex- 
periences in my life that I had the privilege, at the sug- 
gestion of one of his personal friends, of talking with him 
one morning about the complete reuniting of the two 
great sections of our Republic by his election. I told 
him, and I know I told him the truth, when I said that 
every young man in the Southern States who, without 
an opportunity to share either the glory or the defeat of 
the late Confederacy, had in spite of himself suffered the 
disadvantages of the poverty and oppression that fol- 
lowed war, took new hope for the full and speedy reali- 
zation of a complete union, of unparalleled prosperity 
and of broad thinking and noble living from his elevation 
to the Presidency. I told him that the men of North 
Carolina were not only patriotic but ambitious as well; 
and that they were Democrats and proud citizens of the 
State and the Republic not because they wanted offices 
or favours, but because they loved freedom and wished 
the land that had been impoverished by war to regain 
more than it had lost. ' I have not called, Mr. President, 
to ask for an office for myself or for anybody else, ' I re- 
marked; 'but to have the pleasure of expressing my grati- 
fication, as a citizen of North Carolina, at the complete 
change in political methods and morals that I believe 
will date from your Administration. ' He answered that 






42 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

he was glad to see all men who came in such a spirit and 
did not come to beg — especially young men of the South 
of to-day; and he talked and encouraged me to talk 
freely as if he had been as small a man as I am, or I as 
great a man as he is. 

"From that day to this it has been my business to 
watch every public act that he does, to read every public 
word he speaks, and it has been a pleasure and a benefit 
to me (like the benefit that a man gets from reading a 
great history — for he is making a great history) to study 
the progress of his Administration ; and at every step he 
seems to me to warrant the trust that the great Democratic 
party put in him." 

The period to which Page refers in this letter repre- 
sented the time when he was making a serious and harass- 
ing attempt to establish himself in his chosen profession 
in his native state. He went south for a short visit 
after resigning his place on the New York World, and 
several admirers in Raleigh persuaded him to found a 
new paper, which should devote itself to preaching the 
Cleveland ideals, and, above all, to exerting an influence 
on the development of a new Southern spirit. No task 
could have been more grateful to Page and there was 
no place in which he would have better liked to under- 
take it than in the old state which he loved so well. The 
result was the State Chronicle of Raleigh, practically a 
new paper, which for a year and a half proved to be 
the most unconventional and refreshing influence that 
North Carolina had known in many a year. Necessarily 
Page found himself in conflict with his environment. He 
had little interest in the things that then chiefly interested 
the state, and North Carolina apparently had little in- 
terest in the things that chiefly occupied the mind of the 
youthful journalist. Page was interested in Cleveland, 



JOURNALISM 43 

in the reform of the civil service ; the Democrats of North 
Carolina little appreciated their great national leader 
and were especially hostile to his belief that service to a 
party did not in itself establish a qualification for public 
office. Page was interested in uplifting the common 
people, in helping every farmer to own his own acres, and 
in teaching the most modern and scientific way of culti- 
vating them; he was interested in giving every boy and 
girl at least an elementary education, and in giving a 
university training to such as had the aptitude and the 
ambition to obtain it; he believed in industrial training 
— and in these things the North Carolina of those days 
had little concern. Page even went so far as to take an 
open stand for the pitiably neglected black man: he in- 
sisted that he should be taught to read and write, and 
instructed in agriculture and the manual trades. A man 
who advocated such revolutionary things in those days 
was accused — and Page was so accused — of attempting to 
promote the "social equality" of the two races. Page 
also declaimed in favour of developing the state indus- 
trially; he called attention to the absurdity of sending 
Southern cotton to New England spinning mills, and he 
pointed out the boundless but unworked natural resources 
of the state, in minerals, forests, waterpower, and lands. 
North Carolina, he informed his astonished compatriots, 
had once been a great manufacturing colony; why could 
the state not become one againP But the matter in which 
the buoyant editor and his constituents found themselves 
most at variance was the spirit that controlled North 
Carolina life. It was a spirit that found comfort for its 
present poverty and lack of progress in a backward look 
at the greatness of the state in the past and the achieve- 
ments of its sons in the Civil War. Though Page believed 
that the Confederacy had been a ghastly error, and though 






44 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

he abhorred the institution of slavery and attributed to 
it all the woes, economic and social, from which his section 
suffered, he rendered that homage to the soldiers of the 
South which is the due of brave, self-sacrificing and 
conscientious men ; yet he taught that progress lay in re- 
garding the four dreadful years of the Civil War as the 
closed chapter of an unhappy and mistaken history and 
in hastening the day when the South should resume its 
place as a living part of the great American democracy. 
All manifestations of a contrary spirit he ridiculed in 
language which was extremely readable but which at 
times outraged the good conservative people whom he 
was attempting to convert. He did not even spare the 
one figure which was almost a part of the Southerner's 
religion, the Confederate general, especially that par- 
ticular type who used his war record as a stepping stone 
to public office, and whose oratory, colourful and turgid 
in its celebrations of the past, Page regarded as somewhat 
unrelated, in style and matter, to the realities of the 
present. The image-breaking editor even asserted that 
the Daughters of the Confederacy were not entirely a 
helpful influence in Southern regeneration; for they, too, 
were harping always upon the old times and keeping alive 
sectional antagonisms and hatreds. This he regarded 
as an unworthy occupation for high-minded Southern 
women, and he said so, sometimes in language that made 
him very unpopular in certain circles. 

Altogether it was a piquant period in Page's life. He 
found that he had suddenly become a "traitor" to his 
country and that his experiences in the North had com- 
pletely "Yankeeized" him. Even in more mature days, 
Page's pen had its javelin-like quality; and in 1884, pos- 
sessed as he was of all the fury of youth, he never hesitated 
to return every blow that was rained upon his head. As 



JOURNALISM 45 

a matter of fact he had a highly enjoyable time. The 
State Chronicle during his editorship is one of the most 
cherished recollections of older North Carolinians to-day. 
Even those who hurled the liveliest epithets in his di- 
rection have long since accepted the ideas for which Page 
was then contending; "the only trouble with him," they 
now ruefully admit, "was that he was forty \ears ahead 
of his time." They recall with satisfaction the satiric 
accounts which Page used to publish of Democratic Con- 
ventions — solemn, long-winded, frock-coated, white-neck- 
tied affairs that displayed little concern for the reform of 
the tariff or of the civil service, but an energetic interest in 
pensioning Confederate veterans and erecting monuments 
to the Southern heroes of the Civil War. One editorial 
is joyfully recalled, in which Page referred to a public 
officer who was distinguished for his dignity and his 
family tree, but not noted for any animated administra- 
tion of his duties, as "Thothmes II." When this be- 
wildered functionary searched the Encyclopaedia and 
learned that "Thothmes II" was an Egyptian king of the 
XVIIIth dynasty, whose dessicated mummy had re- 
cently been disinterred from the hot sands of the desert, 
he naturally stopped his subscription to the paper. 
The metaphor apparently tickled Page, for he used it in 
a series of articles which have become immortal in the 
political annals of North Carolina. These have always 
been known as the "Mummy letters." They furnished 
a vivid but rather aggravating explanation for the 
existing backwardness and chauvinism of the common- 
wealth. All the trouble, it seems, was caused by the 
"mummies." "It is an awfully discouraging business," 
Page wrote, "to undertake to prove to a mummy that it 
is a mummy. You go up to it and say, 'Old fellow, the 
Egyptian dynasties crumbled several thousand years ago : 



46 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

you are a fish out of water. You have by accident or the 
Providence of God got a long way out of your time. This 
is America.' The old thing grins that grin which death 
set on its solemn features when the world was young ; and 
your task is so pitiful that even the humour of it is gone. 
Give it up." 

Everything great in North Carolina, Page declared, be- 
longed to a vanished generation. "Our great lawyers, great 
judges, great editors, are all of the past. ... In 
the general intelligence of the people, in intellectual force 
and in cultivation, we are doing nothing. We are not 
doing or getting more liberal ideas, a broader view of this 
world. . . . The presumptuous powers of ignorance, 
heredity, decayed respectability and stagnation that con- 
trol public action and public expression are absolutely 
leading us back intellectually." 

But Page did more than berate the mummified aristo- 
cracy which, he declared, was driving the best talent and 
initiative from the state; he was not the only man in 
Raleigh who expressed these unpopular views ; at that time, 
indeed, he was the centre and inspiration of a group of 
young progressive spirits who held frequent meetings to de- 
vise ways of starting the state on the road to a new exist- 
ence. Page then, as always, exercised a great fascination 
over young men. The apparently merciless character of 
his ridicule might at first convey the idea of intolerance; 
the fact remains, however, that he was the most tolerant 
of men ; he was almost deferential to the opinions of others, 
even the shallow and the inexperienced; and nothing de- 
lighted him more than an animated discussion. His 
liveliness of spirits, his mental and physical vitality, the 
constant sparkle of his talk, the sharp edge of his humour, 
naturally drew the younger men to his side. The result 
was the organization of the Wautauga Club, a gathering 



JOURNALISM 47 

which held monthly meetings for the discussion of ways 
and means of improving social and educational condi- 
tions in North Carolina. The very name gives the key 
to its mental outlook. The Wautauga colony was one of 
the last founded in North Carolina — in the extreme west, 
on a plateau of the Great Smoky Mountains; it was 
always famous for the energy and independence of its 
people. The word "Wautauga" therefore suggested the 
breaker of tradition; and it provided a stimulating name 
for Page's group of young spiritual and economic path- 
finders. The Wautauga Club had a brief existence of a 
little more than two years, the period practically covering 
Page's residence in the state; but its influence is an im- 
portant fact at the present time. It gave the state ideas 
that afterward caused something like a revolution in its 
economic and educational status. The noblest monument 
to its labours is the State College in Raleigh, an institution 
which now has more than a thousand students, for the 
most part studying the mechanic arts and scientific ag- 
riculture. To this one college most North Carolinians 
to-day attribute the fact that their state in appreciable 
measure is realizing its great economic and industrial 
opportunities. From it in the last thirty years thousands 
of young men have gone : in all sections of the common- 
wealth they have caused the almost barren acres to yield 
fertile and diversified crops; they have planted every- 
where new industries; they have unfolded unsuspected 
resources and everywhere created wealth and spread 
enlightenment. This institution is a direct outcome of 
Page 's brief sojourn in his native state nearly forty years 
ago. The idea originated in his brain; the files of the 
State Chronicle tell the story of his struggle in its behalf; 
the activities of the Wautauga Club were largely con- 
centrated upon securing its establishment. 



48 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

The State College was a great victory for Page, but 
final success did not come until three years after he had 
left the state. For a year and a half of hard newspaper 
work convinced Page that North Carolina really had no 
permanent place for him. The Chronicle was editorially a 
success: Page's articles were widely quoted, not only 
in his own state but in New England and other parts of 
the Union. He succeeded in stirring up North Carolina 
and the South generally, but popular support for the 
Chronicle was not forthcoming in sufficient amount to 
make the paper a commercial possib. lity . Reluctantly and 
sadly Page had to forego his hope of playing an active 
part in rescuing his state from the disasters of the Civil 
War. Late in the summer of 1885, he again left for the 
North, which now became his permanent home. 

hi 

And with this second sojourn in New York Page's 
opportunity came. The first two years he spent in news- 
paper work, for the most part with the Evening Post, but, 
one day in November, 1887, a man whom he had never seen 
came into his office and unfolded a new opportunity. Two 
years before a rather miscellaneous group had launched 
an ambitious literary undertaking. This was a monthly 
periodical, which, it was hoped, would do for the United 
States what such publications as the Fortnightly and the 
Contemporary were doing for England. The magazine was 
to have the highest literary quality and to be sufficiently 
dignified to attract the finest minds in America as con- 
tributors; its purpose was to exercise a profound in- 
fluence in politics, literature, science, and art. The pro- 
jectors had selected for this publication a title that was 
almost perfection — the Forum — but this, after nearly 
two years' experimentation, represented about the limit of 



JOURNALISM 49 

their achievement. The Forum had hardly made an 
impression on public thought and had attracted very few 
readers, although it had lost large sums of money for its 
progenitors. These public-spirited gentlemen now turned 
to Page as the man who might rescue them from their 
dilemma and achieve their purpose. He accepted the 
engagement, first as manager and presently as editor, 
and remained the guiding spirit of the Forum for eight 
years, until the summer of 1895. 

That the success of a publication is the success of its 
editors, and not of its business managers and its "back- 
ers," is a truth that ought to be generally apparent; never 
has this fact been so eloquently illustrated as in the case 
of the Forum under Page. Before his accession it had had 
not the slightest importance ; for the period of his editor- 
ship it is doubtful if any review published in English 
exercised so great an influence, and certainly none ever 
obtained so large a circulation. From almost nothing the 
Forum, in two or three years, attracted 30,000 sub- 
scribers — something without precedent for a publication 
of this character. It had accomplished this great re- 
sult simply because of the vitality and interest of its 
contents. The period covered was an important one, 
in the United States and Europe ; it was the time of Cleve- 
land's second administration in this country, and of 
Gladstone's fourth administration in England; it was a 
time of great controversy and of a growing interest in 
science, education, social reform and a better political 
order. All these great matters were reflected in the 
pages of the Forum, whose fist of contributors contained 
the most distinguished names in all countries. Its purpose, 
as Page explained it, was "to provoke discussion about 
subjects of contemporary interest, in which the maga- 
zine is not a partisan, but merely the instrument." In 



50 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the highest sense, that is, its purpose was journalistic; 
practically everything that it printed was related to the 
thought and the action of the time. So insistent was 
Page on this programme that his pages were not "closed" 
until a week before the day of issue. Though the Forum 
dealt constantly in controversial subjects it never did so in 
a narrow-minded spirit ; it was always ready to hear both 
sides of a question and the magazine "debate," in which 
opposing writers handled vigorously the same theme, was 
a constant feature. 

Page, indeed, represented a new type of editor. Up to 
that time this functionary had been a rather solemn, in- 
accessible high priest; he sat secluded in his sanctuary, and 
weeded out from the mass of manuscripts dumped upon 
his desk the particular selections which seemed to be 
most suited to his purpose. To solicit contributions 
would have seemed an entirely undignified proceeding; in 
all cases contributors must come to him. According to 
Page, however, "an editor must know men and be out 
among men." His system of "making up" the maga- 
zine at first somewhat astounded his associates. A 
month or two in advance of publication day he would 
draw up his table of contents. This, in its preliminary 
stage, amounted to nothing except a list of the main 
subjects which he aspired to handle in that number. It 
was a hope, not a performance. The subjects were com- 
monly suggested by the happenings of the time — an 
especially outrageous lynching, the trial of a clergyman 
for heresy, a new attack upon the Monroe Doctrine, the 
discovery of a new substance such as radium, the publica- 
tion of an epoch-making book. Page would then fix upon 
the inevitable men who could write most readably and 
most authoritatively upon these topics, and "go after" 
them. Sometimes he would write one of his matchless 



JOURNALISM 51 

editorial letters; at other times he would make a per- 
sonal visit; if necessary , he would use any available friends 
in a wire-pulling campaign. At all odds he must "get" 
his man; once he had fixed upon a certain contributor 
nothing could divert him from the chase. Nor did the 
negotiations cease after he had "landed" his quarry. He 
had his way of discussing the subject with his proposed 
writer, and he discussed it from every possible point of 
view. He would take him to lunch or to dinner; in his 
quiet way he would draw him out, find whether he really 
knew much about the subject, learn the attitude that he 
was likely to take, and delicately slip in suggestions of 
his own. Not infrequently this preliminary interview 
would disclose that the much sought writer, despite 
appearances, was not the one who was destined for that 
particular job ; in this case Page would find some way of 
shunting him in favour of a more promising candidate. 
But Page was no mere chaser of names ; there was nothing 
of the literary tuft-hunter about his editorial methods. 
He liked to see such men as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow 
Wilson, William Graham Sumner, Charles W. Eliot, 
Frederic Harrison, Paul Bourget, and the like upon his 
title page — and here these and many other similarly 
distinguished authors appeared — but the greatest name 
could not attain a place there if the letter press that fol- 
lowed were unworthy. Indeed Page 's habit of throwing 
out the contributions of the great, after paying a stiff 
price for them, caused much perturbation in his counting 
room. One day he called in one of his associates. 

"Do you see that waste basket?" he asked, pointing 
to a large receptacle filled to overflowing with manu- 
scripts. "All our Cleveland articles are there!" 

He had gone to great trouble and expense to obtain 
a series of six articles from the most prominent publicists 



52 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

and political leaders of the country on the first year of 
Mr. Cleveland 's second administration. It was to be the 
"feature" of the number then in preparation. 

"There isn't one of them," he declared, "who has got 
the point. I have thrown them all away and I am going 
to try to write something myself." 

And he spent a couple of days turning out an article 
which aroused great public interest. When Page com- 
missioned an article, he meant simply that he would pay 
full price for it; whether he would publish it depended 
entirely upon the quality of the material itself. But 
Page was just as severe upon his own writings as upon 
those of other men. He wrote occasionally — always under 
a nom-de-plume ; but he had great difficulty in satisfy- 
ing his own editorial standards. After finishing an article 
he would commonly send for one of his friends and read 
the result. 

"That is superb!" this admiring associate would some- 
times say. 

In response Page would take the manuscript and, 
holding it aloft in two hands, tear it into several bits, and 
throw the scraps into the waste basket. 

"Oh, I can do better than that," he would laugh and in 
another minute he was busy rewriting the article, from 
beginning to end. 

Page retired from the editorship of the Forum in 1895. 
The severance of relations was half a comedy, half a 
tragedy. The proprietors had only the remotest relation 
to literature ; they had lost much money in the enterprise 
before Page became editor and only the fortunate accident 
of securing Iris services had changed their losing venture 
into a financial success. In a moment of despair, before the 
happier period had arrived, they offered to sell the prop- 
erty to Page and his friends. Page quickly assembled a 



JOURNALISM 53 

new group to purchase control, when, much to the amaze- 
ment of the old owners, the Forum began to make money. 
Instead of having a burden on their hands, the proprietors 
suddenly discovered that they had a gold mine. They 
therefore refused to deliver their holdings and an inevita- 
ble struggle ensued for control. Page could edit a mag- 
azine and turn a shipwrecked enterprise into a profitable 
one ; but, in a tussle of this kind, he was no match for the 
shrewd business men who owned the property. When the 
time came for counting noses Page and his friends found 
themselves in a minority. Of course his resignation as 
editor necessarily followed this little unpleasantness. 
And just as inevitably the Forum again began to lose 
money, and soon sank into an obscurity from which it has 
never emerged. 

The Forum had established Page's reputation as an 
editor, and the competition for his services was lively. 
The distinguished Boston publishing house of Houghton, 
Mifflin & Company immediately invited him to become 
a part of their organization. When Horace E. Scudder, 
in 1898, resigned the editorship of the Atlantic Monthly, 
Page succeeded him. Thus Page became the successor of 
James Russell Lowell, James T. Fields, William D. Howells, 
and Thomas Bailey Aldrich as the head of this famous 
periodical. This meant that he had reached the top of 
his profession. He was now forty-three years old. 

No American publication had ever had so brilliant a 
history. Founded in 1857, in the most flourishing period 
of the New England writers, its pages had first published 
many of the best essays of Emerson, the second series of 
the Biglow papers as well as many other of Lowell's 
writings, poems of Longfellow and Whittier, such great 
successes as Holmes's "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," 
Mrs. Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and the 



54 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

early novels of Henry James. If America had a literature, 
the Atlantic was certainly its most successful periodical 
exponent. Yet, in a sense, the Atlantic, by the time Page 
succeeded to the editorship, had become the victim of 
its dazzling past. Its recent editors had lived too ex- 
clusively in their back numbers. They had conducted 
the magazine too much for the restricted audience of 
Boston and New England. There was a time, indeed, 
when the business office arranged the subscribers in two 
classes — "Boston" and "foreign"; "Boston" representing 
their local adherents, and "foreign" the loyal readers who 
lived in the more benighted parts of the United States. 
One of its editors had been heard to boast that he never 
solicited a contribution; it was not his business to be 
a literary drummer! Let the truth be fairly spoken: 
when Page made his first appearance in the Atlantic 
office, the magazine was unquestionably on the decline. 
Its literary quality was still high; the momentum that 
its great contributors had given it was still keeping the 
publication alive; entrance into its columns still repre- 
sented the ultimate ambition of the aspiring American 
writer; but it needed a new spirit to insure its future. 
What it required was the kind of editing that had suddenly 
made the Forum one of the greatest of English-written 
reviews. This is the reason why the canny Yankee pro- 
prietors had reached over to New York and grasped Page 
as quickly as the capitalists of the Forum let him slip be- 
tween their fingers. 

Page's sense of humour discovered a certain ironic 
aspect in his position as the dictator of this famous New 
England magazine. The fact that his manner was im- 
patiently energetic and somewhat startling to the placid 
atmosphere of Park Street was not the thing that really 
signified its break with its past. But here was a South- 



JOURNALISM 55 

erner firmly entrenched in a headquarters that had long 
been sacred to the New England abolitionists. One 
of the first sights that greeted Page, as he came into the 
office, was the angular and spectacled countenance of 
William Lloyd Garrison, gazing down from a steel en- 
graving on the wall. One of Garrison's sons was a col- 
league, and the anterooms were frequently cluttered with 
dusky gentlemen patiently waiting for interviews with 
this benefactor of their race. Page once was careless 
enough to inform Mr. Garrison that "one of your niggers" 
was waiting outside for an audience. "I very much re- 
gret, Mr. Page," came the answer, "that you should in- 
sist on spelling 'Negro' with two 'g's'." Despite the 
mock solemnity of this rebuke, perennial good-nature and 
raillery prevailed between the son of Garrison and his 
disrespectful but ever sympathetic Southern friend. 
Indeed, one of Page 's earliest performances was to intro- 
duce a spirit of laughter and genial cooperation into a 
rather solemn and self-satisfied environment. Mr. Mifflin, 
the head of the house, even formally thanked Page "for 
the hearty human way in which you take hold of life." 
Mr. Ellery Sedgwick, the present editor of the Atlantic, has 
described the somewhat disconcerting descent of Page 
upon the editorial sanctuary of James Russell Lowell : 

"Were a visitant from another sphere to ask me for the 
incarnation of those qualities we love to call American, I 
should turn to a familiar gallery of my memory and point 
to the living portrait that hangs there of Walter Page. A 
sort of foursquareness, bluntness, it seemed to some ; an un- 
easy, o'ten explosive energy ; a disposition to underrate fine 
drawn nicenesses of all sorts; ingrained Yankee com- 
mon sense, checking his vaulting enthusiasm; enormous 
self-confidence, impatience of failure — all of these were 



56 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

in him; and he was besides affectionate to a fault, devoted 
to his country, his family, his craft — a strong, bluff, ten- 
der man. 

"Those were the decorous days of the old tradition, and 
Page's entrance into the 'atmosphere' of Park Street has 
taken on the dignity of legend. There were all kinds of 
signs and portents, as the older denizens will tell you. 
Strange breezes floated through the office, electric emana- 
tions, and a pervasive scent of tobacco, which — so the lo- 
cal historian says — had been unknown in the vicinity 
since the days of Walter Raleigh, except for the literary 
aroma of Aldrich's quarantined sanctum upstairs. Page's 
coming marked the end of small ways. His first require- 
ment was, in lieu of a desk, a table that might have served 
a family of twelve for Thanksgiving dinner. No one 
could imagine what that vast, polished tableland could 
serve for until they watched the editor at work. Then 
they saw. Order vanished and chaos reigned. Huge 
piles of papers, letters, articles, reports, books, pamphlets, 
magazines, congregated themselves as if by magic. To 
work in such confusion seemed hopeless, but Page eluded 
the congestion by the simple expedient of moving on. 
He would light a fresh cigar, give the editorial chair a 
hitch, and begin his work in front of a fresh expanse of 
table, with no clutter of the past to disturb the new day's 
litter. 

' ' The motive power of his work was enthusiasm. Never 
was more generous welcome given to a newcomer than 
Page held out to the successful manuscript of an unknown. 
I remember, though I heard the news second hand at the 
time, what a day it was in the office when the first manu- 
script from the future author of 'To Have and To Hold,' 
came in from an untried Southern girl. He walked up and 
down, reading paragraphs aloud and slapping the crisp 



JOURNALISM 57 

manuscript to enforce his commendation. To take a 
humbler instance, I recall the words of over generous 
praise with which he greeted the first paper I ever sent 
to an editor quite as clearly as I remember the monstrous 
effort which had brought it into being. Sometimes he 
would do a favoured manuscript the honour of taking it 
out to lunch in his coat-pocket, and an associate vividly 
recalls eggs, coffee, and pie in a near-by restaurant, while, 
in a voice that could be heard by the remotest lunchers, 
Page read passages which many of them were too startled 
to appreciate. He was not given to overrating, but it 
was not in his nature to understate. 'I tell you,' said he, 
grumbling over some unfortunate proof-sheets from Man- 
hattan, 'there isn't one man in New York who can write 
English — not from the Battery to Harlem Heights.' And 
if the faults were moral rather than literary, his disap- 
proval grew in emphasis. There is more than tradition 
in the tale of the Negro who, presuming on Page's deep 
interest in his race, brought to his desk a manuscript 
copied word for word from a published source. Page 
recognized the deception, and seizing the rascal's collar 
with a firm editorial grip, rejected the poem, and ejected 
the poet, with an energy very invigorating to the ancient 
serenities of the office. 

"Page was always effervescent with ideas. Like an 
editor who would have made a good fisherman, he used to 
say that you had to cast a dozen times before you could 
get a strike. He was forever in those days sending out 
ideas and suggestions and invitations to write. The re- 
sult was electric, and the magazine became with a sudden- 
ness (of which only an editor can appreciate the wonder) 
a storehouse of animating thoughts. He avoided the 
mistake common to our craft of editing a magazine for 
the immediate satisfaction of his colleagues. 'Don't 



58 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

write for the office,' he would say. 'Write for outside,' 
and so his magazine became a living thing. His phrase 
suggests one special gift that Page had, for which his pro- 
fession should do him especial honour. He was able, 
quite beyond the powers of any man of my acquaintance, 
to put compendiously into words the secrets of successful 
editing. It was capital training just to hear him talk. 
'Never save a feature,' he used to say. 'Always work for 
the next number. Forget the others. Spend everything 
just on that.' And to those who know, there is divina- 
tion in the principle. Again he understood instinctively 
that to write well a man must not only have something 
to say, but must long to say it. A highly intelligent 
representative of the coloured race came to him with a 
philosophic essay., Page would have none of it. 'I know 
what you are thinking of,' said Page. 'You are thinking 
of the barriers we set up against you, and the handicap 
of your lot. If you will write what it feels like to be a 
Negro, I will print that.' The result was a paper which has 
seemed to me the most moving expression of the hopeless 
hope of the race I know of. 

"Page was generous in his cooperation. He never drew 
a rigid line about his share in any enterprise, but gave and 
took help with each and all. A lover of good English, 
with an honest passion for things tersely said, Page es- 
teemed good journalism far above any second-rate mani- 
festation of more pretentious forms ; but many of us will 
regret that he was not privileged to find some outlet for 
his energies in which aspiration for real literature might 
have played an ampler part. For the literature of the 
past Page had great respect, but his interest was ever in 
the present and the future. He was forever fulminating 
against bad writing, and hated the ignorant and slipshod 
work of the hack almost as much as he despised the sham 



JOURNALISM 59 

of the man who affected letters, the dabbler and the poet- 
aster. His taste was for the roast beef of literature, not 
for the side dishes and the trimmings, and his appreciation 
of the substantial work of others was no surer than his 
instinct for his own performance. He was an admirable 
writer of exposition, argument, and narrative — solid and 
thoughtful, but never dull. ... I came into close 
relations with him and from him I learned more of my 
profession than from any one I have ever known. Scores 
of other men would say the same." 

But the fact that a new hand had seized the Atlantic was 
apparent in other places than in the Atlantic office itself. 
One of Page's contributors of the Forum days, Mr. 
Courtney DeKalb, happened to be in St. Louis when the 
first number of the magazine under its new editor made its 
appearance. Mr. DeKalb had been out of the country for 
some time and knew nothing of the change. Happening 
accidentally to pick up the Atlantic, the table of contents 
caught his eye. It bore the traces of an unmistakable 
hand. Only one man, he said to himself, could assemble 
such a group as that, and above all, only Page could give 
such an enticing turn of the titles. He therefore sat 
down and wrote his old friend congratulating him on his 
accession to the Atlantic Monthly. The change that now 
took place was indeed a conspicuous, almost a startling 
one. The Atlantic retained all its old literary flavour, for 
to its traditions Page was as much devoted as the highest 
caste Bostonian; it still gave up much of its space to a 
high type of fiction, poetry, and reviews of contemporary 
literature, but every number contained also an assortment 
of articles which celebrated the prevailing activities of 
men and women in all worth-while fields of effort. There 
were discussions of present-day politics, and these even 



60 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

became personal dissections of presidential candidates; 
there were articles on the racial characters of the American 
population : Theodore Roosevelt was permitted to discuss 
the New York police; Woodrow Wilson to pass in review 
the several elements that made the Nation; Booker T. 
Washington to picture the awakening of the Negro ; John 
Muir to enlighten Americans upon a national beauty and 
wealth of which they had been woefully ignorant, their 
forests ; William Allen White to describe certain aspects of 
his favourite Kansas ; E. L. Godkin to review the dangers 
and the hopes of American democracy ; Jacob Riis to tell 
about the Battle with the Slum ; and W. G. Frost to reveal 
for the first time the archaic civilization of the Kentucky 
mountaineers. The latter article illustrated Page's genius 
at rewriting titles. Mr. Frost's theme was that these 
Kentucky mountaineers were really Elizabethan survi- 
vals; that their dialect, their ballads, their habits were 
really a case of arrested development; that by studying 
them present-day Americans could get a picture of their 
distant forbears. Page gave vitality to the presentation 
by changing a commonplace title to this one: "Our Con- 
temporary Ancestors." 

There were those who were offended by Page 's willing- 
ness to seek inspiration on the highways and byways and 
even in newspapers, for not infrequently he would find 
hidden away in a corner an idea that would result in 
valuable magazine matter. On one occasion at least this 
practice had important literary consequences. One day 
he happened to read that a Mrs. Robert Hanning had died 
in Toronto, the account casually mentioning the fact that 
Mrs. Hanning was the youngest sister of Thomas Carlyle. 
Page handed this clipping to a young assistant, and told 
him to take the first train to Canada. The editor could 
easily divine that a sister of Carlyle, expatriated for forty- 



JOURNALISM 61 

six years on this side of the Atlantic, must have received 
a large number of letters from her brother, and it was 
safe to assume that they had been carefully preserved. 
Such proved to be the fact; and a new volume of Carlyle 
letters, of somewhat more genial character than the other 
collections, was the outcome of this visit. 1 And another 
fruit of this journalistic habit was "The Memoirs of a 
Revolutionist," by Prince Peter Kropotkin. In 1897 
the great Russian nihilist was lecturing in Boston. Page 
met him, learned from his own lips his story, and per- 
suaded him to put it in permanent form. This willing- 
ness of Page to admit such a revolutionary person into 
the pages of the Atlantic caused some excitement in 
conventional circles. In fact, it did take some courage, 
but Page never hesitated; the man was of heroic mould, 
he had a great story to tell, he wielded an engaging pen, 
and his purposes were high-minded. A great book of 
memoirs was the result. 

Mr. Sedgwick refers above to Page's editorial fervour 
when Miss Mary Johnston's "Prisoners of Hope" first 
fell out of the blue sky into his Boston office. Page's 
joy was not less keen because the young author was a 
Virginia girl, and because she had discovered that the early 
period of Virginia history was a field for romance. When, a 
few months afterward, Page was casting about for an 
Atlantic serial, Miss Johnston and this Virginia field 
seemed to be an especially favourable prospect. "Pris- 
oners of Hope" had been published as a book and had 
made a good success, but Miss Johnston's future still 
lay ahead of her. With Page to think meant to act, and 
so, instead of writing a formal letter, he at once jumped on 
a train for Birmingham, Alabama, where Miss Johnston 

^'Letters of Thomas Carlyle to his Youngest Sister." Edited by Charles Town- 
send Copeland. Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1899. 



62 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

was then living. "I remember quite distinctly that first 
meeting," writes Miss Johnston. "The day was rainy. 
Standing at my window I watched Mr. Page — a charac- 
teristic figure, air and walk — approach the house. When 
a few minutes later I met him he was simplicity and kind- 
liness itself. This was my first personal contact with 
publishers (my publishers) or with editors of anything 
so great as the Atlantic. My heart beat! But he was 
friendly and Southern. I told him what I had done upon 
a new story. He was going on that night. Might he 
take the manuscript with him and read it upon the train? 
It might — he couldn't say positively, of course — but it 
might have serial possibilities. I was only too glad 
for him to have the manuscript. I forget just how many 
chapters I had completed. But it was not quite in order. 
Could I get it so in a few hours? In that case he would 
send a messenger for it from the hotel. Yes, I could. 
Very good ! A little further talk and he left with a strong 
handshake. Three or four hours later he had the manu- 
script and took it with him from Birmingham that night." 

Page's enterprising visit had put into his hands the 
half-finished manuscript of a story, "To Have and to 
Hold," which, when printed in the Atlantic, more than 
doubled its circulation, and which, when made into a book, 
proved one of the biggest successes since "Uncle Tom's 
Cabin." 

Page's most independent stroke in his Atlantic days 
came with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. 
Boston was then the headquarters of a national mood 
which has almost passed out of popular remembrance. 
Its spokesmen called themselves anti-imperialists. The 
theory back of their protest was that the American declar- 
ation of war on Spain was not only the wanton attack of 
a great bully upon a feeble little country : it was something 



JOURNALISM 63 

that was bound to have deplorable consequences. The 
United States was breaking with its past and engaging 
in European quarrels; as a consequence of the war it 
would acquire territories and embark on a career of 
"imperialism." Page was impatient at this kind of 
twaddle. He declared that the Spanish War was a 
"necessary act of surgery for the health of civilization." 
He did not believe that a nation, simply because it was 
small, should be permitted to maintain indefinitely a 
human slaughter house at the door of the United States. 
The Atlantic for June, 1898, gave the so-called anti- 
imperialists a thrill of horror. On the cover appeared 
the defiantly flying American flag; the first article was a 
vigorous and approving presentation of the American case 
against Spain; though this was unsigned, its incisive style 
at once betrayed the author. The Atlantic had printed 
the American flag on its cover during the Civil War; 
but certain New Englanders thought that this latest 
struggle, in its motives and its proportions, was hardly 
entitled to the distinction. Page declared, however, that 
the Spanish War marked a new period in history ; and he 
endorsed the McKinley Administration, not only in the 
war itself, but in its consequences, particularly the annexa- 
tion of the Philippine Islands. 

Page greatly enjoyed life in Boston and Cambridge. 
The Atlantic was rapidly growing in circulation and in 
influence, and the new friends that its editor was making 
were especially to his taste. He now had a family of four 
children, three boys and one girl — and their bringing up 
and education, as he said at this time, constituted his 
real occupation. So far as he could see, in the summer 
of 1899, he was permanently established in fife. But 
larger events in the publishing world now again pulled him 
back to New York. 



CHAPTER III 

"the forgotten man' 



IN JULY, 1899, the publishing community learned that 
financial difficulties were seriously embarrassing the 
great house of Harper. For nearly a century this estab- 
lishment had maintained a position ahnost of preemi- 
nence among American publishers. Three generations 
of Harpers had successively presided over its destinies; 
its magazines and books had become almost a household 
necessity in all parts of the United States, and its authors 
included many of the names most celebrated in American 
letters. The average American could no more associate 
the idea of bankruptcy with this great business than with 
the federal Treasury itself. Yet this incredible disaster 
had virtually taken place. At this time the public knew 
nothing of the impending ruin; the fact was, however, 
that, in July, 1899, the banking house of J. P. Morgan & 
Company practically controlled this property. This was 
the situation which again called Page to New York. 

In the preceding year Mr. S. S. McClure, whose recent 
success as editor and publisher had been little less than a 
sensation, had joined forces with Mr. Frank N. Double- 
day, and organized the new firm of Doubleday & Mc- 
Clure. This business was making rapid progress; and 
that it would soon become one of the leading American 
publishing houses was already apparent. It was perhaps 
not unnatural, therefore, that Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, 
scanning the horizon for the men who might rescue the 

64 



"the forgotten man" 65 

Harper concern from approaching disaster, should have 
had his attention drawn to Mr. McClure and Mr. Double- 
day. "The failure of Harper & Brothers," Mr. Morgan 
said in a published statement, "would be a national ca- 
lamity." One morning, therefore, a member of the Harper 
firm called upon Mr. McClure. Without the slight- 
est hesitation he unfolded the Harper situation to his 
astonished contemporary. The solution proposed was 
more astonishing still. This was that Mr. Doubleday and 
Mr. McClure should amalgamate their young and vig- 
orous business with the Harper enterprise and become the 
active managers of the new corporation. Both Mr. Mc- 
Clure and Mr. Doubleday were comparatively young men, 
and the magnitude of the proposed undertaking at fust 
rather staggered them. It was as though a small inde- 
pendent steel maker should suddenly be invited to take 
over the United States Steel Corporation. Mr. McClure, 
characteristically impetuous and daring, wished to accept 
the invitation outright; Mr. Doubleday, however, sug- 
gested a period of probation. The outcome was that the 
two men offered to take charge of Harper & Brothers 
for a few months, and then decide whether they wished 
to make the association a permanent one. One thing was 
immediately apparent; Messrs. Doubleday and McClure, 
able as they were, would need the help of the best talent 
available in the work that lay ahead. The first man 
to whom they turned was Page, who presently left Boston 
and took up his business abode at Franklin Square. The 
rumble of the elevated road was somewhat distract- 
ing after the four quiet years in Park Street, but the 
new daily routine was not lacking in interest. The 
Harper experiment, however, did not end as Mr. Morgan 
had hoped. After a few months Messrs. Doubleday, 
Page and McClure withdrew, and left the work of rescue 



66 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to be performed by Mr. George Harvey, who, curiously 
enough, succeeded Page, twenty-one years afterward, in 
an even more important post — that of ambassador to 
the Court of St. James's. The one important outcome of 
the Harper episode, so far as Page was concerned, w as the 
forming of a close business and personal association w ith 
Mr. Frank N. Doubleday. As soon as the two men defi- 
nitely decided not to assume the Harper responsibility, 
therefore, they joined forces and founded the firm of 
Doubleday, Page & Company. Page now had the op- 
portunity which he had long wished for; the mere editing 
of magazines, even magazines of such an eminent charac- 
ter as the Forum and the Atlantic Monthly, could hardly 
satisfy his ambition; he yearned to possess something 
which he could call his own, at least in part. 

The life of an editor has its unsatisfactory aspect, unless 
the editor himself has an influential ownership in his 
periodical. Page now found his opportunity to establish 
a monthly magazine which he could regard as his own in 
both senses. He was its untrammelled editor, and also, 
in part, its proprietor. All editors and writers will sym- 
pathize with the ideas expressed in a letter written about 
this time to Page's friend, Mr. William Roscoe Thayer, 
already distinguished as the historian of Italian unity and 
afterward to win fame as the biographer of Cavour and 
John Hay. When the first number of the World's Work 
appeared Mr. Thayer wrote, expressing a slight disap- 
pointment that its leading tendency was journalistic 
rather than literary and intellectual. "When you edited 
the Forum,'" wrote Mr. Thayer, "I perceived that no 
such talent for editing had been seen in America before, 
and when, a little later, you rejuvenated the Atlantic. 
making it for a couple of years the best periodical printed 
in English, I felt that you had a great mission before you 



"the forgotten man" 67 

as evoker and editor of the best literary work and w eight- 
iest thought on important topics of our foremost men." 
He had hoped to see a magnified Atlantic, and the new 
publication, splendid as it was, seemed to be of rather 
more popular character than the publications with which 
Page had previously been associated. Page met this 
challenge in his usual hearty fashion. 

To William Roscoe Thayer 

34 Union Square East, New York, 
December 5, 1900. 
My dear Thayer: 

The World's Work has brought me nothing so good as 
your letter of yesterday. When Mrs. Page read it, 
she shouted "Now that's it!" For "it" read "truth," 
and you will have her meaning and mine. My thanks 
you may be sure you have, in great and earnest abun- 
dance. 

You surprise me in two ways — (1) that you think as 
well of the magazine as you do. If it have half the force 
and earnestness that you say it has, how happy I shall be, 
for then it will surely bring something to pass. The 
other way in which you surprise me is by the flattering 
things that you say about my conduct of the Atlantic. 
Alas! it was not what you in your kind way say — no, 
no. 

Of course the World's Work is not yet by any means what 
I hope to make it. But it has this incalculable advantage 
(to me) over every other magazine in existence : it is mine 
(mine and my partners', i. e., partly mine), and I shall not 
work to build up a good piece of machinery and then 
be turned out to graze as an old horse is. This of course, 
is selfish and personal — not wholly selfish either, I think. 
I threw down the Atlantic for this reason: (Consider the 



68 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

history of its editors) Low ell 1 complained bitterly that he 
was never rewarded properly for the time and work he did ; 
Fields was (in a way) one of its owners; it was sold out 
from under Howells, etc., etc. I might (probably should) 
have been at the mercy completely of owners some day who 
would have dismissed me for a younger man. Nearly all 
hired editors suffer this fate. My good friends in Boston 
were sincere in thinking that my day of doom would 
never come; but they didn't offer me any guarantee — part 
ownership, for instance; and the years go swiftly. I 
could afford, of my own volition, to leave the Atlantic. I 
couldn 't afford to take permanently the risks that a hired 
editor must take. Nor should I ever again have turned 
my hand to such a task except on a magazine of my own. 
I should have sought other employment. There are many 
easier and better and more influential things to do — yet; 
ten years hence I might have been too old. Harry Hough- 
ton 2 has an old horse thirty years old. I used to see him 
grazing sometimes and hear his master's self-congratula- 
tory explanation of his own kindness to that faithful 
beast. In the office of Houghton, Mifflin & Company 
there is an old man whom I used to see every day — 
pensioned, grazing. Then I would go home and see four 
bright children. Three of them are now^ away from home 
at school; and the four cost a pretty penny to educate. 
My income had been the same for ten years — or very 
nearly the same. If I was a "magic" editor, I confess I 
didn't see the magic; and there is no power under Heaven 
or in it that can prove to me that I ought to keep on mak- 
ing magazines as a hired man — without the common 



*A memorandum of an old Atlantic balance sheet discloses that James Russell 
Lowell's salary as editor was $1,500 a year. 

2 A member of the firm of Houghton, Mifflin & Company. 



"the forgotten man" 69 

security of permanent service for lack of which nearly all 
my predecessors lost their chance. 

But this is not all, nor half. A man ought to express 
himself, ought to live his own life, say his own little say, 
before silence comes. The "say" may be bad — a mere 
yawp, and silence might be more becoming. But the 
same argument would make a man dissatisfied with his 
own nose if it happened to be ugly. It's his nose, and he 
must content himself. So it's his yawp and he must let 
it go. 

I 'm not going to make the new magazine my own mega- 
phone — you may be sure of that. It will nevertheless 
contain my general interpretation of things, in which I 
swear I do believe! The first thing, of course, is to es- 
tablish it. Then it can be shaped more nearly into what 
I wish it to become. If it seem unmannerly, aggressive, 
I know no other way to make it heard. If it died, then 
the game would be up. Well, we seem to have established 
it at once. It promises not to cost us a penny of invest- 
ment. 

Now, the magazines need new topics. They have all 
threshed over old straw for many years. There is one new 
subject, to my thinking worth all the old ones: the new 
impulse in American life, the new feeling of nationality, 
our coming to realize ourselves. To my mind there is 
greater promise in democracy than men of any preceding 
period ever dared dream of — aggressive democracy — 
growth by action. Our wr iters (the few we have) are yet 
in the pre-democratic era. When men's imaginations lay 
hold on the things that already begin to appear above the 
horizon, we shall have something worth reading. At 
present I can do no more than bawl out, "See! here are 
new subjects." One of these days somebody will come 
along who can write about them. I have started out 



70 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

without a writer. Fiske is under contract, James would 
give nothing more to the Atlantic, you were ill (I thank 
Heaven you are no longer so) the second- and third-rate 
essayists have been bought by mere Wall Street pub- 
lishers. Beyond these are the company of story tellers 
and beyond them only a dreary waste of dead-level un- 
imaginative men and women. I can (soon) get all that 
I could ever have got in the Atlantic and new ones (I 
know they'll come) whom I could never have got there. 
You'll see — within a year or two — by far a better mag- 
azine than I have ever made ; and you and I will differ in 
nothing unless you feel despair about the breakdown of 
certain democratic theories, which I think were always 
mere theories. Let 'em go! The real thing, which is life 
and action, is better. 

Heartily and always your grateful friend, 

Walter H. Page. 

Thus the fact that Page's new magazine was intended 
for a popular audience was not the result of accident, but 
of design. It represented a periodical plan which had long 
been taking shape in Page's mind. The things that he 
had been doing for the Forum and the Atlantic he aspired 
to do for a larger audience than that to which publications 
of this character could appeal. Scholar though Page was, 
and lover of the finest things in literature that he had al- 
ways been, yet this sympathy and interest had always lain 
with the masses. Perhaps it is impossible to make lit- 
erature democratic, but Page believed that he would be 
genuinely serving the great cause that was nearest his heart 
if he could spread wide the facts of the modern world, es- 
pecially the facts of America, and if he could clothe 
the expression in language which, while always dignified 
and even "literary," would still be sufficiently touched 



"the forgotten man" 71 

with the vital, the picturesque, and the "human," to 
make his new publication appeal to a wide audience of 
intelligent, everyday Americans. It was thus part of 
his general programme of improving the status of the 
average man, and it formed a logical part of his philos- 
ophy of human advancement. For the only acceptable 
measure of any civilization, Page believed, was the 
extent to which it improved the condition of the com- 
mon citizen. A few cultured and university-trained men at 
the top; a few ancient families living in luxury; a few 
painters and poets and statesmen and generals; these 
things, in Page's view, did not constitute a satisfactory 
state of society ; the real test was the extent to which the 
masses participated in education, in the necessities and 
comforts of existence, in the right of self-evolution and 
self-expression, in that "equality of opportunity," which, 
Page never wearied of repeating, "was the basis of social 
progress." The mere right to vote and to hold office was 
not democracy; parliamentary majorities and political 
caucuses were not democracy — at the best these things were 
only details and not the most important ones; democ- 
racy was the right of every man to enjoy, in accordance 
with his aptitudes of character and mentality, the material 
and spiritual opportunities that nature and science had 
placed at the disposition of mankind. This democratic 
creed had now become the dominating interest of Page 's 
life. From this time on it consumed all his activities. 
His new magazine set itself first of all to interpret the 
American panorama from this point of view; to describe 
the progress that the several parts of the country were 
making in the several manifestations of democracy — 
education, agriculture, industry, social life, politics — 
and the importance that Page attached to them was 
practically in the order named. Above all it concerned 



72 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

itself with the men and women who were accomplishing 
most in the definite realization of this great end. 

And now also Page began to carry his activities far be- 
yond mere print. In his early residence in New York, from 
1885 to 1895, he had always taken his part in public move- 
ments ; he had been a vital spirit in the New York Reform 
Club, which was engaged mainly in advocating the Cleve- 
land tariff; he had always shown a willingness to experi- 
ment with new ideas; at one time he had mingled with 
Socialists and he had been quite captivated by the personal 
and literary charm of Henry George. After 1900, how- 
ever, Page became essentially a public man, though not in 
the political sense. His work as editor and writer was 
merely one expression of the enthusiasms that occupied 
his mind. From 1900 until 1913, when he left for England, 
life meant for him mainly an effort to spread the demo- 
cratic ideal, as he conceived it ; concretely it represented a 
constant campaign for improving the fundamental oppor- 
tunities and the everyday social advantages of the masses. 

ii 

Inevitably the condition of the people in his own home- 
land enlisted Page 's sympathy, for he had learned of their 
necessities at first hand. The need of education had 
powerfully impressed him even as a boy. At twenty- 
three he began writing articles for the Raleigh Observer, 
and practically all of them were pleas for the education of 
the Southern child. His subsequent activities of this 
kind, as editor of the State Chronicle, have already been 
described. The American from other parts of the country 
is rather shocked when he first learns of the backwardness 
of education in the South a generation ago. In any real 
sense there was no publicly supported system for training 
the child. A few wretched hovels, scattered through a 



"the forgotten man" 73 

sparsely settled country, served as school houses; a few 
uninspiring and neglected women, earning perhaps $50 
or $75 a year, did weary duty as teachers; a few groups 
of anemic and listless children, attending school for only 
forty days a year — such was the preparation for life which 
most Southern states gave the less fortunate of their 
citizens. The glaring fact that emphasized the outcome 
of this official carelessness was an illiteracy, among white 
men and women, of 26 per cent. Among the Negroes it 
was vastly larger. 

The first exhortation to reform came from the Wautauga 
Club, which Page had organized in Raleigh in 1884. 
After Page had left his native state, other men began 
preaching the same crusade. Perhaps the greatest of 
those advocates whom the South loves to refer to as 
"educational statesmen" was Dr. Charles D. Mclver, 
of Greensboro, N. C. Mclver 's personality and career 
had an heroic quality all their own. Back in the 'eighties 
Mclver and Edwin A. Alderman, now President of the 
University of Virginia, endured all kinds of hardships and 
buffetings in the cause of popular education ; they stumped 
the state, much like political campaigners, preaching the 
strange new gospel in mountain cabin, in village church, 
at the cart's tail — all in an attempt to arouse their 
lethargic countrymen to the duty of laying a small tax 
to save their children from illiteracy. Some day the story 
of Mclver and Alderman will find its historian; when it 
does, he will learn that, in those dark ages, one of their 
greatest sources of inspiration was Walter Page. Mclver, 
a great burly boy, physically and intellectually, so full 
of energy that existence for him was little less than 
an unending tornado, so full of zeal that any other oc- 
cupation than that of training the neglected seemed a 
trifling with life, so sleepless in his efforts that, at the age 






74 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

of forty-five, he one day dropped dead while travelling 
on a railroad train; Alderman, a man of finer culture, 
quieter in his methods, an orator of polish and restraint, 
but an advocate vigorous in the prosecution of the great 
end; and Page, living faraway in the North, but pumping 
his associates full of courage and enthusiasm — these -were 
the three guardsmen of this new battle for the elevation 
of the white and black men of the South. Mclver's 
great work was the State Normal College for Women, 
which, amid unparallelled difficulties, he founded for 
teaching the teachers of the new T Southern generation. It 
was at this institution that Page, in 1897, delivered the 
address which gave the cause of Southern education that 
one thing which is worth armies to any struggling re- 
form — a phrase; and it was a phrase that lived in the 
popular mind and heart and summed up, in a way that 
a thousand speeches could never have done, the great 
purpose for which the best people in the state were striv- 
ing. 

His editorial gift for title-making now served Page in 
good stead. "The Forgotten Man," which was the head- 
ing of his address, immediately passed into the common 
speech of the South and even at this day inevitably ap- 
pears in all discussions of social progress. It was again 
Page 's familiar message of democracy, of improving the 
condition of the everyday man, woman, and child; and 
the message, as is usually the case in all incitements to 
change, involved many unpleasant facts. Page had first 
of all to inform his fellow Southerners that it was only in 
the South that "The Forgotten Man" was really an out- 
standing feature. He did not exist in New England, in 
the Middle States, in the Mississippi Valley, or in the 
West, or existed in these regions to so slight an extent that 
he was not a grave menace to society. But in the South 



"the forgotten man" 75 

the situation was quite different. And for this fact the 
explanation was found in history. The South certainly 
could not fix the blame upon Nature. In natural wealth 
— in forests, mines, quarries, rich soil, in the unlimited 
power supplied by water courses — the Southern States 
formed perhaps the richest region in the country. These 
things North Carolina and her sister communities had 
not developed ; more startling still, they had not developed 
a source of wealth that was infinitely greater than all these 
combined; they had not developed their men and their 
women. The Southern States represented the purest 
"Anglo-Saxon" strain in the United States; to-day in 
North Carolina only one person in four hundred is of "for- 
eign stock," and a voting list of almost any town contains 
practically nothing except the English and Scotch names 
that were borne by the original settlers. Yet here de- 
mocracy, in any real sense, had scarcely obtained a footing. 
The region which had given Thomas Jefferson and George 
Washington to the world was still, in the year 1897, 
organized upon an essentially aristocratic basis. The con- 
ception of education which prevailed in the most hide- 
bound aristocracies of Europe still ruled south of the 
Potomac. There was no acceptance of that fundamental 
American doctrine that education was the function of the 
state. It was generally regarded as the luxury of the rich 
and the socially high placed; it was certainly not for the 
poor ; and it was a generally accepted view that those who 
enjoyed this privilege must pay for it out of their own 
pockets. Again Page returned to the "mummy" theme 
— the fact that North Carolina, and the South generally, 
were too much ruled by "dead men's" hands. The 
state was controlled by a "little aristocracy, which, in its 
social and economic character, made a failure and left 
a stubborn crop of wrong social notions behind it — 



76 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

especially about education." The chief backward influ- 
ences were the stump and the pulpit. "From the days 
of King George to this day, the politicians of North Car- 
olina have declaimed against taxes, thus laying the foun- 
dation of our poverty. It was a misfortune for us that 
the quarrel with King George happened to turn upon 
the question of taxation — so great was the dread of 
taxation that was instilled into us." What had the up- 
per classes done for the education of the average man? 
The statistics of illiteracy, the deplorable economic and 
social conditions of the rural population — and most of 
the population of North Carolina was rural— furnished 
the answer. 

Thus the North Carolina aristocracy had failed in 
education and the failure of the Church had been as com- 
plete and deplorable. The preachers had established 
preparatory schools for boys and girls, but these were 
under the control of sects; and so education was either a 
class or an ecclesiastical concern. "The forgotten man 
remained forgotten. The aristocratic scheme of educa- 
tion had passed him by. To a less extent, but still to the 
extent of hundreds of thousands, the ecclesiastical scheme 
had passed him by." But even the education which these 
institutions gave was inferior. Page told his North Car- 
olina audience that the University of which they were so 
proud did not rank with Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and 
other universities of the North. The state had not pro- 
duced great scholars nor established great libraries. In 
the estimation of publishers North Carolina was unimport- 
ant as a book market. "By any test that may be made, 
both these systems have failed even with the classes that 
they appealed to. ' ' The net result was that ' ' One in every 
four was wholly forgotten" — that is, was unable to read and 
write. And the worst of it all was that the victim of this 



"the forgotten man" 77 

neglect was not disturbed over his situation. "The for- 
gotten man was content to be forgotten. He became not 
only a dead weight, but a definite opponent of social prog- 
ress. He faithfully heard the politician on the stump 
praise him for virtues that he did not have. The poli- 
ticians told him that he lived in the best state in the Union ; 
told him that the other politicians had some hare-brained 
plan to increase his taxes, told him as a consolation for his 
ignorance how many of his kinsmen had been killed in the 
war, told him to distrust any one who wished to change 
anything. What was good enough for his fathers was 
good enough for him. Thus the 'forgotten man' became 
a dupe, became thankful for being neglected. And the 
preacher told him that the ills and misfortunes of this fife 
were blessings in disguise, that God meant his poverty as 
a means of grace, and that if he accepted the right creed 
all would be well with him. These influences encouraged 
inertia. There could not have been a better means to 
prevent the development of the people." 

Even more tragic than these "forgotten men" were the 
"forgotten women." "Thin and wrinkled in youth from 
ill-prepared food, clad without warmth or grace, living in 
untidy houses, working from daylight till bedtime at the 
dull round of weary duties, the slaves of men of equal 
slovenliness, the mothers of joyless children — all unedu- 
cated if not illiterate." "This sight," Page told his 
hearers, "every one of you has seen, not in the countries 
whither we send missionaries, but in the borders of the 
State of North Carolina, in this year of grace." 

"Our civilization," he declared, "has been a failure." 
Both the politicians and the preacher had failed to lift 
the masses. "It is a time for a wiser statesmanship and 
a more certain means of grace." He admitted that there 
had been recent progress in North Carolina, owing largely 



78 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to the work of Mclver and Alderman, but taxes for edu- 
cational purposes were still low. What was the solution? 
"A public school system generously supported by 
public sentiment and generously maintained by both 
state and local taxation, is the only effective means to 
develop the forgotten man and even more surely the 
only means to develop the forgotten woman. . . ." 
"If any beggar for a church school oppose a local tax 
for schools or a higher school tax, take him to the huts 
of the forgotten women and children, and in their hope- 
less presence remind him that the church system of edu- 
cation has not touched tens of thousands of these lives 
and ask him whether he thinks it wrong that the common- 
wealth should educate them. If he think it wrong ask 
him and ask the people plainly, whether he be a worthy 
preacher of the gospel that declares one man equal to 
another in the sight of God? . . . The most sacred 
thing in the commonwealth and to the commonwealth 
is the child, whether it be your child or the child of the 
dull-faced mother of the hovel. The child of the dull- 
faced mother may, as you know, be the most capable 
child in the state. . . . Several of the strongest 
personalities that were ever born in North Carolina were 
men whose very fathers were unknown. We have all 
known two such, who held high places in Church and 
State. President Eliot said a little while ago that the 
ablest man that he had known in his many years' con- 
nection with Harvard University was the son of a brick 
mason." 

In place of the ecclesiastical creed that had guided 
North Carolina for so many generations Page proposed 
his creed of democracy. He advised that North Carolina 
commit this to memory and teach it to its children. It 
was as follows: 



"the forgotten man" 79 

"I believe in the free public training of both the hands 
and the mind of every child born of woman. 

"I believe that by the right training of men we add to 
the wealth of the world. All wealth is the creation of 
man, and he creates it only in proportion to the trained 
uses of the community; and the more men we train the 
more wealth everyone may create. 

"I believe in the perpetual regeneration of society, and 
in the immortality of democracy and in growth ever- 
lasting." 

Thus Page nailed his theses upon the door of his native 
state, and mighty was the reverberation. In a few weeks 
Page's Greensboro address had made its way all over the 
Southern States, and his melancholy figure, "the for- 
gotten man" had become part of the indelible imagery 
of the Southern people. The portrait etched itself 
deeply into the popular consciousness for the very good 
reason that its truth was pretty generally recognized. 
The higher type of newspaper, though it winced some- 
what at Page's strictures, manfully recognized that the 
best way of meeting his charge was by setting to work and 
improving conditions. The fact is that the better con- 
science of North Carolina welcomed this eloquent de- 
scription of unquestioned evils ; but the gentlemen whom 
Page used to stigmatize as "professional Southerners" — 
the men who commercialized class and sectional prejudice 
to their own political and financial or ecclesiastical profit 
— fell foul of this "renegade," this "Southern Yankee" 
this sacrilegious "intruder" who had dared to visit his 
old home and desecrate its traditions and its religion. 
This clerical wrath was kindled into fresh flame when 
Page, in an editorial in his magazine, declared that these 
same preachers, ignoring their real duties, were content 



80 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"to herd their women and children around the stagnant 
pools of theology." For real religion Page had the 
deepest reverence, and he had great respect also for the 
robust evangelical preachers whose efforts had con- 
tributed so much to the opening up of the frontier. In 
his Greensboro address Page had given these men high 
praise. But for the assiduous idolaters of stratified dogma 
he entertained a contempt which he was seldom at pains 
to conceal. North Carolina had many clergymen of the 
more progressive type; these men chuckled at Page's 
vigorous characterization of the brethren, but those 
against whom it had been aimed raged with a fervour 
that was almost unchristian. This clerical excitement, 
however, did not greatly disturb the philosophic Page. 
The hubbub lasted for several years — for Page's Greens- 
boro speech was only the first of many pronouncements 
of the same kind — but he never publicly referred to the 
attacks upon him. Occasionally in letters to his friends 
he would good-naturedly discuss them. "I have had 
several letters," he wrote to Professor Edwin Mims, of 
Trinity College, North Carolina, "about an 'excoriation' 
(Great Heavens! What a word!) that somebody in 
North Carolina has been giving me. I never read these 
things and I don't know what it's all about — nor do J 
care. But perhaps you'll be interested in a letter that I 
wrote an old friend (a lady) who is concerned about 
it. I enclose a copy of it. I shall never notice any 
'excoriator.' But if you wish to add to the gaiety of 
nations, give this copy to some newspaper and let it 
loose in the state — if you care to do so. We must have 
patience with these puny and peevish brethren. They've 
been trained to a false view of life. Heaven knows I 
bear them no ill-will." 

The letter to which Page referred follows: 



"the forgotten man" 81 

My dear Friend: 

I have your letter saying that some of the papers in 
North Carolina are again "jumping on" me. I do not 
know which they are, and I am glad that you did not 
tell me. I had heard of it before. A preacher wrote me 
the other day that he approved of every word of an "ex- 
coriation" that some religious editor had given me. A 
kindly Christian act — wasn't it, to send a stranger word 
that you were glad that he had been abused by a religious 
editor? I wrote him a gentle letter, telling him that I 
hoped he'd have a long and happy life preaching a gospel 
of friendliness and neighbourliness and good-will, and 
that I cared nothing about "excoriations." Why should 
he, then, forsake his calling and take delight in dis- 
seminating personal abuse? 

And why do you not write me about things that I 
really care for in the good old country — the budding trees, 
the pleasant weather, news of old friends, gossip of good 
people — cheerful things? I pray you, don't be concerned 
about what any poor whining soul may write about me. 
I don't care for myself: I care only for him; for the writer 
of personal abuse always suffers from it — never the man 
abused. 

I haven't read what my kindly clerical correspondent 
calls an "excoriation" for ten years, and I never shall 
read one if I know what it is beforehand. Why should 
I or anybody read such stuff? I can't find time to do 
half the positive things that I should like to do for the 
broadening of my own character and for the encourage- 
ment of others. Why should I waste a single minute 
in such a negative and cheerless way as reading anybody's 
personal abuse of anybody else — least of all myself? 

These silly outbursts never reach me and they never 
can ; and they, therefore, utterly fail, and always will fail, 



82 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

of their aim ; yet, my dear friend, there is nevertheless a 
serious side to such folly. For it shows the need of edu- 
cation, education, education. The religious editor and 
the preacher who took joy in his abuse of me have such 
a starved view of life that they cannot themselves, per- 
haps, ever be educated into kindliness and dignity of 
thought. But their children may be — must be. Think 
of beautiful children growing up in a home where "ex- 
coriating" people who differ with you is regarded as a 
manly Christian exercise! It is pitiful beyond words. 
There is no way to lift up life that is on so low a level ex- 
cept by the free education of all the people. Let us work 
for that and, when the growlers are done growling and 
forgotten, better men will remember us with gratitude. 
I felt greatly complimented and pleased to receive an 
invitation the other day to attend the North Carolina 
Teachers' Assembly in June. I have many things to do 
in June, but I am going— going with great pleasure. I 
hope to see you there. I know of no other company of 
people that I should be so glad to meet. They are doing 
noble work — the most devoted and useful work in this 
whole wide world. They are the true leaders of the 
people. I often wish that I were one of them. They 
inspire me as nobody else does. They are the army of 
our salvation. 

Write me what they are doing. Write me about the 
wonderful educational progress. And write me about the 
peach trees and the budding imminence of spring; and 
about the children who now live all day outdoors and 
grow brown and plump. And never mind that queer 
sect, "The Excoriators." They and their stage thunder 
will be forgotten to-morrow. Meantime let us live and 
work for things nobler than any controversies, for things 
that are larger than the poor mission of any sect; and let 



"the forgotten man" 83 

us have charity and a patient pity for those that think 
they serve God by abusing their fellow-men. I wish I 
saw some way to help them to a broader and a higher life. 

Faithfully yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

hi 

That Page should have little interest in "excoriators" 
at the time this letter was written — in April, 1902 — was 
not surprising, for his educational campaign and that of 
his friends was now bearing fruit. "Write me about 
the wonderful educational progress," he says to this 
correspondent; and, indeed, the change that was coming 
over North Carolina and the South generally seemed to 
be tinged with the miraculous. The "Forgotten Man" 
and the "Forgotten Woman" were rapidly coming into 
their own. Two years after the delivery of Page's 
Greensboro address, a small group of educational en- 
thusiasts met at Capon Springs, West Virginia, to dis- 
cuss the general situation in the South. The leader of 
this little gathering was Robert C. Ogden, a great New 
York merchant who for many years had been President 
of the Board of Hampton Institute. Out of this meet- 
ing grew the Southern Educational Conference, which 
was little more than an annual meeting for advertis- 
ing broadcast the educational needs of the South. Each 
year Mr. Ogden chartered a railroad train; a hundred 
or so of the leading editors, lawyers, bankers, and the 
like became his guests; the train moved through the 
Southern States, pausing now and then to investigate 
some particular institution or locality; and at some 
Southern city, such as Birmingham or Atlanta or Winston- 
Salem, a stop of several days would be made, a public 
building engaged, and long meetings held. In all these 



84 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

proceedings Page was an active figure, as he became in 
the Southern Education Board, which directly resulted 
from Mr. Ogden's public spirited excursions. Like the 
Conference, the Southern Education Board was a purely 
missionary organization, and its most active worker was 
Page himself. He was constantly speaking and writing 
on his favourite subjeot; he printed article after article, 
not only in his own magazine, but in the Atlantic, in 
the Outlook, and in a multitude of newspapers, such as 
the Boston Transcript, the New York Times, and the 
Kansas City Star. And always through his writings, 
and, indeed, through his life, there ran, like the motif of 
an opera, that same perpetual plea for "the forgotten 
man" — the need of uplifting the backward masses 
through training, both of the mind and of the hand. 

The day came when this loyal group had other things to 
work with than their voices and their pens ; their efforts 
had attracted the attention of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, who 
brought assistance of an extremely substantial character. 
In 1902 Mr. Rockefeller organized the General Education 
Board. Of the ten members six were taken from the 
Southern Education Board; other members represented 
general educational movements and especially the Baptist 
interests to which Mr. Rockefeller had been contributing 
for years. In a large sense, therefore, especially in its 
membership, the General Education Board was a develop- 
ment of the Ogden organization; but it was much broader 
in its sweep, taking under its view the entire nation and 
all forms of educational effort. It immediately began 
to concern itself with the needs of the South. In 1902 
Mr. Rockefeller gave this new corporation $1,000,000; 
in 1905 he gave it $10,000,000; in 1907 he astonished the 
Nation by giving $32,000,000, and, in 1909, another 
,000,000; the whole making a total of $53,000,000, 



"the forgotten man" 85 

the largest sum ever given by a single man, up to that 
time, for social or philanthropic purposes. The General 
Education Board now became the chief outside interest 
of Page's life. He was made a member of the Executive 
Committee, faithfully attended all its sessions, and par- 
ticipated intimately in every important plan. All 
such bodies have their decorative members and their 
working members; Page belonged emphatically in the 
latter class. Not only was he fertile in suggestions, but 
his ready mind could give almost any proposal its proper 
emphasis and clearly set forth its essential details. Be- 
tween Page and Dr. Buttrick, Secretary and now President 
of the Board, a close personal intimacy grew up. Dr. 
Buttrick moved to Teaneck Road, Englewood, where Page 
had his home, and many a long evening did the two men 
spend together, many a long walk did they take in the 
surrounding country, always discussing education, espe- 
cially Southern education. A letter to the present writer 
from Dr. Abraham Flexner, the present Secretary of the 
Board, perhaps sums up the matter. "Page was one of 
the real educational statesmen of this country," says Dr. 
Flexner, "probably the greatest that we have had since 
the Civil War." 

And this Rockefeller support came at a time when 
that movement known as the "educational awakening" 
had started in the South. In 1900 North Carolina elected 
its greatest governor since the Civil War — Charles B. 
Ay cock. A much repeated anecdote attributes Lincoln's 
detestation of slavery to a slave auction that he wit- 
nessed as a small boy; Aycock's first zeal as an educa- 
tional reformer had an origin that was even more pathetic, 
for he always carried in his mind his recollection of his own 
mother signing an important legal document with a cross. 
As a young man fresh from the university Aycock also 



86 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

came under the influence of Page. An old letter, pre- 
served among Page's papers, dated February 26, 1886, 
discloses that he was a sympathizing reader of the 
"mummy" controversy; when the brickbats began flying 
in Page's direction Aycock wrote, telling Page that 
"fully three fourths of the people are with you and wish 
you Godspeed in your effort to awaken better work, 
greater activity, and freer opinion in the state." And 
now under Aycock's governorship North Carolina began 
to tackle the educational problem with a purpose. School 
houses started up all over the state at the rate of one a 
day — many of them beautiful, commodious, modern struc- 
tures, in every way the equals of any in the North or 
West; high schools, normal schools, trade schools made 
their appearance wherever the need was greatest; and 
in other parts of the South the response was similarly 
energetic. The reform is not yet complete, but the 
description that Page gave of Southern education in 
1897, accurate in all its details as it was then, has now 
become ancient history. 

IV 

And in occupations of this kind Page passed his years 
of maturity. His was not a spectacular life; his family 
for the most part still remained his most immediate 
interest; the daily round of an editor has its imaginative 
quality, but in the main it was for Page a quiet, even a 
cloistered existence; the work that an editor does, the 
achievements that he can put to his credit, are usually 
anonymous; and the American public little understood 
the extent to which Page was influencing many of the 
most vital forces of his time. The business association 
that he had formed with Mr. Doubleday turned out 
most happily. Their publishing house, in a short time, 



"the forgotten man" 87 

attained a position of great influence and prosperity. 
The two men, on both the personal and the business 
side, were congenial and complementary; and the 
love that both felt for country life led to the estab- 
lishment of a publishing and printing plant of unusual 
beauty. In Garden City, Long Island, a great brick struc- 
ture was built, somewhat suggestive in its architecture of 
Hampton Court, surrounded by pools and fountains, Italian 
gardens, green walks and pergolas, gardens blooming in ap- 
propriate seasons with roses, peonies, rhododendrons, chry- 
santhemums, and the like, and parks of evergreen, fir, 
cedar, and more exotic trees and shrubs. Certainly fate 
could have designed no more fitting setting for Page's 
favourite activities than this. In assembling authors, 
in instigating the writing of books, in watching the 
achievements and the tendencies of American life, in the 
routine of editing his magazine — all this in association with 
partners whose daily companionship was a delight and a 
stimulation — Page spent his last years in America. 

Page's independence as an editor, sufficiently indicated 
in the days of his vivacious youth, became even more em- 
phatic in his maturer years. In his eyes, merely inking over 
so many pages of good white paper was not journalism; 
conviction, zeal, honesty — these were the important 
points. Almost on the very day that his appointment as 
Ambassador to Great Britain was announced his maga- 
zine published an editorial from his pen, which contained 
not especially complimentary references to his new chief, 
Mr. Bryan, the Secretary of State; naturally the news- 
papers found much amusement in these few sentences; 
but the thing was typical of Page's whole career as an 
editor. He held to the creed that an editor should 
divorce himself entirely from prejudices, animosities, 
and predilections; this seems an obvious, even a trite 



88 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

thing to say, yet there are so few men who can leave 
personal considerations aside in writing of men and 
events that it is worth while pointing out that Page was 
such a man. When his firm was planning to establish 
its magazine, his partner, Mr. Doubleday, was ap- 
proached by a New York politician of large influence but 
shady reputation who wished to be assured that it would 
reflect correct political principles. "You should see Mr. 
Page about that," was the response. "No, this is a busi- 
ness matter," the insinuating gentleman went on, and 
then he proceeded to show that about twenty-five thou- 
sand subscribers could be obtained if the publication 
preached orthodox standpat doctrine. "I don't think 
you had better see Mr. Page," said Mr. Doubleday, dis- 
missing his caller. 

Many incidents which illustrate this independence 
could be given; one will suffice. In 1907 and 1908, 
Page's magazine published the "Random Reminiscences of 
John D. Rockefeller." While the articles were appear- 
ing, the Hearst newspapers obtained a large number of 
letters that, some years before, had passed between 
Mr. John D. Archbold, President of the Standard Oil 
Company and one of Mr. Rockefeller's business associates 
from the earliest days, and Senator Joseph R. Foraker, of 
Ohio. These letters uncovered one of the gravest scan- 
dals that had ever involved an American public man; 
they instantaneously destroyed Senator Foraker 's politi- 
cal career and hastened his death. They showed that 
this brilliant man had been obtaining large sums of 
money from the Standard Oil Company while he was 
filling the post of United States Senator and that at the 
same time he was receiving suggestions from Mr. Arch- 
bold about pending legislation. Mr. Rockefeller was not 
personally involved, for he had retired from active busi- 



"the forgotten man" 89 

ness many years before these things had been done; but 
the Standard Oil Company, with which his name was 
intimately associated, was involved and in a way that 
seemed to substantiate the worst charges that had been 
made against it. At this time Page, as a member of the 
General Education Board, was doing his part in helping 
to disperse the Rockefeller millions for public purposes; 
his magazine was publishing Mr. Rockefeller's reminis- 
cences; there are editors who would have felt a certain 
embarrassment in commenting on the Archbold trans- 
action. Page, however, did not hesitate. Mr. Arch- 
bold, hearing that he intended to treat the subject fully, 
asked him to come and see him. Page replied that he 
would be glad to have Mr. Archbold call upon him. 
The two men were brought together by friendly inter- 
mediaries in a neutral place; but the great oil magnate's 
explanation of his iniquities did not satisfy Page. The 
November, 1908, issue of the magazine contained, in one 
section, an interesting chapter by Mr. Rockefeller, de- 
scribing the early days of the Standard Oil Company, and, 
in another, ten columns by Page, discussing the Archbold 
disclosures in language that was discriminating and well 
tempered, but not at all complimentary to Mr. Archbold 
or to the Standard Oil Company. 

Occasionally Page was summoned for services of a 
public character. Thus President Roosevelt, whose friend- 
ship he had enjoyed for many years, asked him to 
serve upon his Country Life Commission — a group of 
men called by the President to study ways of im- 
proving the surroundings and extending the oppor- 
tunities of American farmers. Page's interest in Negro 
education led to his appointment to the Jeanes Board. 
He early became an admirer of Booker Washington, and 
especially approved his plan for uplifting the Negro 



90 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

by industrial training. One of the great services that 
Page rendered literature was his persuasion of Wash- 
ington to write that really great autobiography, "Up 
from Slavery," and another biography in a different 
field, for which he was responsible, was Miss Helen 
Keller's "Story of My Life." And only once, amid these 
fine but not showy activities, did Page's life assume any- 
thing in the nature of the sensational. This was in 
1909, when he published his one effort at novel writing, 
"The Southerner." To write novels had been an early 
ambition with Page; indeed his papers disclose that he 
had meditated several plans of this kind; but he never 
seriously settled himself to the task until the year 1906. 
In July of that year the Atlantic Monthly began pub- 
lishing a serial entitled "The Autobiography of a South- 
erner Since the Civil War," by Nicholas Worth. The 
literary matter that appeared under this title most 
readers accepted as veracious though anonymous auto- 
biography. It related the life adventures of a young man, 
born in the South, of parents who had had little sympathy 
with the Confederate cause, attempting to carve out his 
career in the section of his birth and meeting opposition 
and defeat from the prejudices Avith which he constantly 
found himself in conflict. The story found its main 
theme and background in the fact that the Southern 
States were so exclusively living in the memories of the 
Civil War that it was impossible for modern ideas to 
obtain a foothold. " I have sometimes thought," said the 
author, and this passage may be taken as embodying the 
leading point of the narrative, "that many of the men 
who survived that unnatural war unwittingly did us a 
greater hurt than the war itself. It gave everyone of 
them the intensest experience of his life and ever after- 
ward he referred every other experience to this. Thus 



"the forgotten man" 91 

it stopped the thought of most of them as an earthquake 
stops a clock. The fierce blow of battle paralyzed the 
mind. Their speech was a vocabulary of war, their 
loyalties were loyalties, not to living ideas or duties, but 
to old commanders and to distorted traditions. They 
were dead men, most of them, moving among the living 
as ghosts; and yet, as ghosts in a play, they held the 
stage. ' ' In another passage the writer names the " ghosts ' ' 
which are chiefly responsible for preventing Southern 
progress. They are three: "The Ghost of the Con- 
federate dead, the Ghost of religious orthodoxy, the Ghost 
of Negro domination." Everywhere the hero finds his 
progress blocked by these obstructive wraiths of the past. 
He seeks a livelihood in educational work — becomes a local 
superintendent of Public Instruction, and loses his place 
because his religious views are unorthodox, because he 
refuses to accept the popular estimate of Confederate 
statesmen, and because he hopes to educate the black 
child as well as the white one. He enters politics and 
runs for public office on the platform of the new day, is 
elected, and then finds himself counted out by political 
ringsters. Still he does not lose faith, and finally settles 
down in the management of a cotton mill, convinced that 
the real path of salvation lies in economic effort. This 
mere skeleton of a story furnishes an excuse for rehears- 
ing again the ideas that Page had already made familiar 
in his writings and in his public addresses. This time 
the lesson is enlivened by the portrayal of certain typ- 
ical characters of the post-bellum South. They are 
all there — the several types of Negro, ranging all the 
way from the faithful and philosophic plantation re- 
tainer to the lazy "Publican" office-seeker; the po- 
litical colonel, to whom the Confederate veterans and 
the "fair daughters of the South (God bless 'em)" are 



92 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the mainstays of "civerlerzation" and indispensable in- 
strumentalities in the game of partisan politics ; the evan- 
gelical clergymen who cared more for old-fashioned creeds 
than for the education of the masses ; the disreputable edi- 
tor who specialized in Negro crime and constantly preached 
the doctrine of the "white man's country"; the Southern 
woman who, innocently and sincerely and even charm- 
ingly, upheld the ancient tradition and the ancient feud. 
On the other hand, Page's book portrays the buoyant 
enthusiast of the new day, the reformer who was seeking 
to establish a public school system and to strengthen 
the position of woman; and, above all, the quiet, hard- 
working industrialist who cared nothing for stump speak- 
ing but much for cotton mills, improved methods of 
farming, the introduction of diversified crops, the tidying 
up of cities and the country. 

These chapters, extensively rewritten, were published 
as a book in 1909. Probably Page was under no illusion 
that he had created a real romance when he described 
his completed work as a "novel." The Atlantic auto- 
biography had attracted wide attention, and the identi- 
fication of the author had been immediate and accurate. 
Page's friends began calling his house on the telephone and 
asking for "Nicholas" and certain genial spirits addressed 
him in letters as "Marse Little Nick" — the name under 
which the hero was known to the old Negro family ser- 
vant, Uncle Ephraim — perhaps the best drawn character 
in the book. Page's real purpose in calling the book a 
"novel" therefore, was to inform the public that the 
story, so far as its incidents and most of its characters 
were concerned, was pure fiction. Certain episodes, such 
as those describing the hero's early days, were, in the 
main, veracious transcripts from Page's own fife, but the 
rest of the book bears practically no relation to his career. 



"the forgotten man" 93 

The fact that he spent his mature years in the North, 
editing magazines and publishing, whereas Nicholas 
Worth spends his in the South, engaged in educational 
work and in politics and industry, settles this point. 
The characters, too, are rather types than specific in- 
dividuals, though one or two of them, particularly Pro- 
fessor Billy Bain, who is clearly Charles D. Mclver, may 
be accepted as fairly accurate portraits. But as a work 
of fiction "The Southerner" can hardly be considered 
a success; the love story is too slight, the women not well 
done, most of the characters rather personified qualities 
than flesh and blood people. Its strength consists in 
the picture that it gives of the so-called "Southern 
problem," and especially of the devastating influence of 
slavery. From this standpoint the book is an auto- 
biography, for the ideas and convictions it presents had 
formed the mental fife of Page from his earliest days. 
And these were the things that hurt. Yet the stories of 
the anger caused by "The Southerner" have been much 
exaggerated. It is said that a certain distinguished South- 
ern senator declared that, had he known that Page was the 
author of "The Southerner," he would have blocked his 
nomination as Ambassador to Great Britain ; certain South- 
ern newspapers also severely denounced the volume ; even 
some of Page's friends thought that it was a little unkind 
in spots; yet as a whole the Southern people accepted it 
as a fair, and certainly as an honest, treatment of a 
very difficult subject. Possibly Page was a little hard 
upon the Confederate veteran, and did not sufficiently 
portray the really pathetic aspects of his character; any 
shortcomings of this sort are due, not to any failing 
in sympathy, but to the fact that Page's zeal was 
absorbingly concentrated upon certain glaring abuses. 
And as to the accuracy of his vision in these respects 



94 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

there could be no question. The volume was a wel- 
come antidote to the sentimental Southern novels that 
had contented themselves with glorifying a vanished 
society which, when the veil is stripped, was not heroic 
in all its phases, for it was based upon an institution so 
squalid as human slavery, and to those even more perni- 
cious books which, by luridly portraying the unquestioned 
vices of reconstruction and the frightful consequences 
which resulted from giving the Negro the ballot, simply 
aroused useless passions and made the way out of the 
existing wilderness still more difficult. So the best public 
opinion, North and South, regarded "The Southerner," 
and decided that Page had performed a service to the 
section of his birth in writing it. Indeed the fair-minded 
and intelligent spirit with which the best elements in 
the South received "The Southerner" in itself demonstra- 
ted that this great region had entered upon a new day. 



Nor was Page's work for the South yet ended. In the 
important five years from 1905 to 1910 he performed two 
services of an extremely practical kind. In 1906 the 
problem of Southern education assumed a new phase. 
Dr. Wallace Buttrick, the Secretary of the General 
Education Board, had now decided that the fundamental 
difficulty was economic. By that time the Southern 
people had revised their original conception that edu- 
cation was a private and not a public concern; there was 
now a general acceptance of the doctrine that the mental 
and physical training of every child, white and black, 
was the responsibility of the state; Aycock's campaign 
had worked such a popular revolution on this subject 
that no politician who aspired to public office would dare 
to take a contrary view. Yet the economic difficulty 



' THE FORGOTTEN MAN " 95 

still remained. The South was poor; whatever might be 
the general desire, the taxable resources were not suf- 
ficient to support such a comprehensive system of 
popular instruction as existed in the North and West. 
Any permanent improvement must therefore be based 
upon the strengthening of the South 's economic position. 
Essentially the task was to build up Southern agricul- 
ture, which for generations had been wasteful, unintel- 
ligent and consequently unproductive. Such a far-reach- 
ing programme might well appall the most energetic 
reformer, but Dr. Buttrick set to work. He saw little 
light until his attention was drawn to a quaint and 
philosophic gentleman — a kind of bucolic Ben Franklin 
— who was then obscurely working in the cotton lands of 
Louisiana, making warfare on the boll weevil in a way 
of his own. At that time Dr. Seaman A. Knapp had 
made no national reputation; yet he had evolved a plan 
for redeeming country life and making American farms 
more fruitful that has since worked marvellous results. 
There was nothing especially sensational about its details. 
Dr. Knapp had made the discovery in relation to farms 
that the utilitarians had long since made with reference 
to other human activities : that the only way to improve 
agriculture was not to talk about it, but to go and do it. 
During the preceding fifty years agricultural colleges had 
sprung up all over the United States — Dr. Knapp had 
been president of one himself; practically every Southern 
state had one or more; agricultural lecturers covered 
thousands of miles annually telling their yawning audi- 
ences how to farm; these efforts had scattered broadcast 
much valuable information about the subject, but the dif- 
ficulty lay in inducing the farmers to apply it. Dr. 
Knapp had a new method. He selected a particular 
farmer and persuaded him to work his fields for a period 



96 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

according to methods which he prescribed. He told his 
pupil how to plough, what seed to plant, how to space his 
rows, what fertilizers to use, and the like. If a selected 
acreage yielded a profitable crop which the farmer could 
sell at an increased price Dr. Knapp had sufficient faith 
in human nature to believe that that particular farmer 
would continue to operate his farm on the new method 
and that his neighbours, having this practical example of 
growing prosperity, would imitate him. 

Such was the famous "Demonstration Work" of Dr. 
Seaman A. Knapp; this activity is now a regular branch 
of the Department of Agriculture, employing thousands 
of agents and spending not far from $18,000,000 a year. 
Its application to the South has made practically a new 
and rich country, and it has long since been extended to 
other regions. When Dr. Buttrick first met Knapp, how- 
ever, there were few indications of this splendid future. 
He brought Dr. Knapp North and exhibited him to 
Page. This was precisely the kind of man who appealed 
to Page's sympathies. His mind was always keenly on 
the scent for the new man— the original thinker who had 
some practical plan for uplifting humankind and making 
fife more worth while. And Dr. Knapp's mission was 
one that had filled most of his thoughts for many years; 
its real purpose was the enrichment of country life. 
Page therefore took to Dr. Knapp with a mighty zest. 
He supported him on all occasions; he pled his cause with 
great eloquence before the General Education Board, 
whose purse strings were liberally unloosed in behalf of 
the Knapp work; in his writings, in speeches, in letters, 
in all forms of public advocacy, he insisted that Dr. 
Knapp had found the solution of the agricultural problem. 
The fact is that Page regarded Knapp as one of the great- 
est men of the time. His feeling came out with character- 



"the forgotten man" 97 

istic intensity on the occasion of the homely reformer's 
funeral. "The exercises," Page once told a friend, "were 
held in a rather dismal little church on the outskirts of 
Washington. The day was bleak and chill, the attend- 
ants were few — chiefly officials of the Department of 
Agriculture. The clergyman read the service in the most 
perfunctory way. Then James Wilson, the Secretary of 
Agriculture, spoke formally of Dr. Knapp as a faithful 
servant of the Department who always did well what he 
was told to do, commending his life in an altogether com- 
monplace fashion. By that time my heart was pretty hot. 
No one seemed to divine that in the coffin before them 
was the body of a really great man, one who had hit up- 
on a fruitful idea in American agriculture — an idea that 
was destined to cover the nation and enrich rural life 
immeasurably." Page was so moved by this lack of ap- 
preciation, so full of sorrow at the loss of one of his 
dearest friends, that, when he rose to speak, his apprais- 
ment took on a certain indignation. Their dead associate, 
Page declared, would outrank the generals and the poli- 
ticians who received the world's plaudits, for he had de- 
voted his life to a really great purpose ; his inspiration had 
been the love of the common people, his faith, his sym- 
pathy had all been expended in an effort to brighten the 
life of the too frequently neglected masses. Page's ad- 
dress on this occasion was entirely extemporaneous; no 
record of it was ever made, but those who heard it still 
carry the memory of an eloquent and fiery outburst that 
placed Knapp 's work in its proper relation to American 
history and gave an unforgettable picture of a patient, 
idealistic, achieving man whose name will loom large in 
the future. 

During this same period Page, always on the out- 
look for the exceptional man, made another discovery 



98 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

which has had world-wide consequences. As a member 
of President Roosevelt's Country Life Commission Page 
became one of the committee assigned to investigate con- 
ditions in the Southern States. The sanitarian of this 
commission was Dr. Charles W. Stiles, a man who held 
high rank as a zoologist, and who, as such, had for many 
years done important work with the Department of 
Agriculture. Page had hardly formed Dr. Stiles's ac- 
quaintance before he discovered that, at that time, he 
was a man of one idea. And this one idea had for years 
brought upon his head much good-natured ridicule. 
For Dr. Stiles had his own explanation for much of the 
mental and physical sluggishness that prevailed in the 
rural sections of the Southern States. Yet he could not 
mention this without exciting uproarious laughter — 
even in the presence of scientific men. Several years 
previously Dr. Stiles had discovered that a hitherto unclas- 
sified species of a parasite popularly known as the hook- 
worm prevailed to an astonishing extent in all the South- 
ern States. The pathological effects of this creature had 
long been known; it localized in the intestines, there se- 
creted a poison that destroyed the red blood corpuscles, 
and reduced its victims to a deplorable state of anaemia, 
making them constantly ill, listless, mentally dull — in 
every sense of the word useless units of society. The 
encouraging part of this discovery was that the patients 
could quickly be cured and the hookworm eradicated by 
a few simple improvements in sanitation. Dr. Stiles had 
long been advocating such a campaign as an indispensable 
preliminary to improving Southern fife. But the hu- 
morous aspect of the hookworm always interfered with 
his cause ; the microbe of laziness had at last been found ! 
It was not until Dr. Stiles, in the course of this Southern 
trip, cornered Page in a Pullman car, that he finally found 



THE FORGOTTEN MAN " 99 

an attentive listener. Page, of course, had his prelimi- 
nary laugh, but then the hookworm began to work on his 
imagination. He quickly discovered that Dr. Stiles was 
no fool; and before the expedition was finished, he had 
become a convert and, like most converts, an extremely 
zealous one. The hookworm now filled his thoughts as 
completely as it did those of his friend ; he studied it, he 
talked about it; and characteristically he set to work to 
see what could be done. How much Southern history 
did the thing explain? Was it not forces like this, and 
not statesmen and generals, that really controlled the des- 
tinies of mankind? Page's North Carolina country people 
had for generations been denounced as "crackers," and as 
"hill-billies," but here was the discovery that the great 
mass of them were ill — as ill as the tuberculosis patients in 
the Adirondacks. Free these masses from the enervating 
parasite that consumed all their energies— for Dr. Stiles 
had discovered that the disease afflicted the great major- 
ity of the rural classes — and a new generation would re- 
suit. Naturally the cause strongly touched Page's sym- 
pathies. He laid the case before the ever sympathetic 
Dr. Buttrick, but here again progress was slow. By 
hard hammering, however, he half converted Dr. Butt- 
rick, who, in turn, took the case of the hookworm to his 
old associate, Dr. Frederick T. Gates. What Page was 
determined to obtain was a million dollars or so from 
Mr. John D. Rockefeller, for the purpose of engaging in 
deadly warfare upon this pest. This was the proper way 
to produce results: first persuade Dr. Buttrick, then 
induce him to persuade Dr. Gates, who, if convinced, 
had ready access to the great treasure house. But Dr. 
Gates also began to smile; even the combined elo- 
quence of Page and Dr. Buttrick could not move him. 
So the reform marked time until one day Dr. Buttrick, 



100 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Dr. Gates, and Dr. Simon Flexner, the Director of the 
Rockefeller Institute, happened to be fellow travellers — 
again on a Pullman car. 

"Dr. Flexner," said Dr. Buttrick — this for the benefit 
of his incredulous friend — "what is the scientific standing 
of Dr. Charles W. Stiles?" 

"Very, very high," came the immediate response, and 
at this Dr. Gates pricked up his ears. Yet the subse- 
quent conversation disclosed that Dr. Flexner was un- 
familiar with the Stiles hookworm work. He, too, smiled 
at the idea, but, like Page his smile was not one of 
ridicule. 

"If Dr. Stiles believes this," was his dictum, "it is 
something to be taken most seriously." 

As Dr. Flexner is probably the leading medical scientist 
in the United States, his judgment at once lifted the hook- 
worm issue to a new plane. Dr. Gates ceased laughing 
and events now moved rapidly. Mr. Rockefeller gave a 
million dollars to a sanitary commission for the eradica- 
tion of the hookworm in the Southern States, and of this 
Page became a charter member. In this way an enterprise 
that is the greatest sanitary and health reform of modern 
times had its beginnings. So great was the success of the 
Hookworm Commission in the South, so many thousands 
were almost daily restored to health and usefulness, that 
Mr. Rockefeller extended its work all over the world — to 
India, Egypt, China, Australia, to all sections that fall 
within the now accurately located "hookworm belt." 
Out of it grew the great International Health Commission, 
also endowed with unlimited millions of Rockefeller money, 
which is engaged in stamping out disease and promoting 
medical education in all quarters of the globe. Dr. Stiles 
and Page 's associates on the General Education Board at- 
tribute the origin of this work to the simple fact that Page, 




Walter H. Page (1899), from a photograph taken when he was 
editor of the Atlantic Monthly 







© Underwood & Underwood 

Dr. Wallace Butt rick. President of the General Education Board 



"the forgotten man" 101 

great humourist that he was, could temper his humour 
with intelligence, and could therefore perceive the point 
at which a joke ceased to be a joke and actually concealed 
a truth of the most far-reaching importance to mankind. 

Page enjoyed the full results of this labour one night in 
the autumn of 1913, when Dr. Wickliffe Rose, the head of 
the International Health Board, came to London to discuss 
the possibility of beginning hookworm work in the British 
Empire, especially in Egypt and India. Page, as Am- 
bassador, arranged a dinner at the Marlborough Club, 
attended by the leading medical scientists of the kingdom 
and several members of the Cabinet. Dr. Rose's de- 
scription of his work made a deep impression. He was 
informed that the British Government was only too ready 
to cooperate with the Health Board. When the discus- 
sion was ended the Right Honourable Lewis Harcourt, 
the Secretary of State for the Colonies, concluded an 
eloquent address with these words: 

"The time will come when we shall look back on this 
evening as the beginning of a new era in British colonial 
administration. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 



IT WAS Page's interest in the material and spiritual 
elevation of the masses that first directed his attention 
to the Presidential aspirations of Woodrow Wilson. So 
much history has been made since 1912 that the public 
questions which then stirred the popular mind have 
largely passed out of recollection. Yet the great rallying 
cry of that era was democracy, spelled with a small "d." 
In the fifty years since the Civil War only one Demo- 
cratic President had occupied the White House. The 
Republicans' long lease of power had produced certain 
symptoms which their political foes now proceeded to 
describe as great public abuses. The truth of the matter, 
of course, is that neither political virtue nor political 
depravity was the exclusive possession of either of the 
great national organizations. The Republican party, 
especially under the enlightened autocracy of Roosevelt, 
had started such reforms as conservation, the improve- 
ment of country life, the regulation of the railroads, and 
the warfare on the trusts, and had shown successful in- 
terest in such evidences of the new day as child labour laws, 
employer's liability laws, corrupt practice acts, direct 
primaries and the popular election of United States Sena- 
tors — not all perhaps wise as methods, but all certainly 
inspired with a new conception of democratic government. 
Roosevelt also had led in the onslaught on that corpora- 
tion influence which, after all, constituted the great 

102 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 103 

problem of American politics. But Mr. Taft's adminis- 
tration had impressed many men, and especially Page, as 
a discouraging slump back into the ancient system. Page 
was never blind to the inadequacies of his own party; 
the three campaigns of Bryan and his extensive influence 
with the Democratic masses at times caused him deep 
despair; that even the corporations had extended their 
tentacles into the ranks of Jefferson was all too obvious 
a fact; yet the Democratic party at that time Page 
regarded as the most available instrument for embody- 
ing in legislation and practice the new things in which 
he most believed. Above all, the Democratic party in 
1912 possessed one asset to which the Republicans could 
lay no claim — a new man, a new leader, the first states- 
man who had crossed its threshold since Grover Cleve- 
land. 

Like many scholarly Americans, Page had been charmed 
by the intellectual brilliancy of Woodrow Wilson. The 
utter commonplaceness of much of what passes for po- 
litical thinking in this country had for years discouraged 
him. American political life may have possessed energy, 
character, even greatness; but it was certainly lacking in 
distinction. It was this new quality that Wilson 
brought, and it was this that attracted thousands of 
cultivated Americans to his standard, irrespective of 
party. The man was an original thinker ; he exercised the 
priceless possession of literary style. He entertained; 
he did not weary; even his temperamental deficiencies, 
which were apparent to many observers in 1912, had 
at least the advantage that attaches to the interesting and 
the unusual. 

What Page and thousands of other public-spirited men 
saw in Wilson was a leader of fine intellectual gifts who 
was prepared to devote his splendid energies to making 



104 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

life more attractive and profitable to the "Forgotten 
Man." Here was the opportunity then, to embody in 
one imaginative statesman all the interest which for a 
generation had been accumulating in favour of the 
democratic revival. At any rate, after thirty years of 
Republican half-success and half-failure, here was the 
chance for a new deal. Amid a mob of shopworn pub- 
lic men, here was one who had at least the charm of 
novelty. 

Page had known Mr. Wilson for thirty years, and all 
this time the Princeton scholar had seemed to him to be 
one of the most helpful influences at work in the United 
States. As already noted Page had met the future Pres- 
ident when he was serving a journalistic apprenticeship 
in Atlanta, Georgia. Wilson was then spending his days 
in a dingy law office and was putting to good use the time 
consumed in waiting for the clients who never came by 
writing that famous book on "Congressional Government" 
which first lifted his name out of obscurity. This work, 
the product of a man of twenty-nine, was perhaps the 
first searching examination to which the American Con- 
gressional system had ever been subjected. It brought 
Wilson a professorship at the newly established Bryn 
Mawr College and drew to him other growing minds like 
Page's. "Watch that man!" was Page's admonition to 
his friends. Wilson then went into academic work and 
Page plunged into the exactions of daily and periodical 
journalism, but Page's papers show that the two men had 
kept in touch with each other during the succeeding thirty 
years. These papers include a collection of letters from 
Woodrow Wilson, the earliest of which is dated October 
30, 1885, when the future President was beginning his 
career at Bryn Mawr. He was eager to come to New 
York, Wilson said, and discuss with Page "half a hundred 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 105 

topics" suggested by "Congressional Government." The 
atmosphere at Bryn Mawr was evidently not stimulating. 
"Such a talk would give me a chance to let off some of the 
enthusiasm I am just now painfully stirring up in enforced 
silence." The Forum and the Atlantic Monthly, when 
Page was editor, showed many traces of his interest in 
Wilson, who was one of his most frequent contributors. 
When Wilson became President of Princeton, he occasion- 
ally called upon his old Atlantic friend for advice. He 
writes to Page on various matters — to ask for suggestions 
about filling a professorship or a lectureship; and there 
are also references to the difficulties Wilson is having with 
the Princeton trustees. 

Page's letters also portray the new hopes with which 
Wilson inspired him. One of his best loved correspond- 
ents was Henry Wallace, editor of Wallace's Farmer, a 
homely and genial Rooseveltian. Page was one of those 
who immensely admired Roosevelt's career; but he re^ 
garded him as a man who had finished his work, at least 
in domestic affairs, and whose great claim upon posterity 
would be as the stimulator of the American conscience. 
"I see you are coming around to Wilson," Page writes, 
"and in pretty rapid fashion. I assure you that that is 
the solution of the problem. I have known him since we 
were boys, and I have been studying him lately with a 
great deal of care. I haven't any doubt but that is the 
way out. The old labels 'Democrat' and 'Republican' 
have ceased to have any meaning, not only in my mind 
and in yours, but I think in the minds of nearly all the 
people. Don 't you feel that way? " 

The campaign of 1912 was approaching its end when 
this letter was written; and no proceeding in American 
politics had so aroused Page's energies. He had himself 
played a part in Wilson 's nomination. He was one of the 



106 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

first to urge the Princeton President to seize the great op- 
portunity that was rising before him. These suggestions 
were coming from many sources in the summer of 1910; 
Mr. Wilson was about to retire from the Presidency of 
Princeton; the movement had started to make him Gov- 
ernor of New Jersey, and it was well understood that this 
was merely intended as the first step to the White House. 
But Mr. Wilson was himself undecided; to escape the 
excitement of the moment he had retired to a country 
house at Lyme, Connecticut. In this place, in response 
to a letter, Page now sought him out. His visit was a 
plea that Mr. Wilson should accept his proffered fate; 
the Governorship of New Jersey, then the Presidency, 
and the opportunity to promote the causes in which 
both men believed. 

"But do you think I can do it, Page?" asked the hesi- 
tating Wilson. 

"I am sure you can": and then Page again, with his 
customary gusto, launched into his persuasive argument. 
His host at one moment would assent; at another present 
the difficulties ; it was apparent that he was having trouble 
in reaching a decision. To what extent Page's conver- 
sation converted him the record does not disclose; it is 
apparent, however, that when, in the next two years, 
difficulties came, his mind seemed naturally to turn in 
Page's direction. Especially noticeable is it that he appeals 
to Page for help against his fool friends. An indiscreet 
person in New Jersey is booming Mr. Wilson for the 
Presidency; the activity of such a man inevitably brings 
ridicule upon the object of his attention ; cannot Page find 
some kindly way of calling him off? Mr. Wilson asks 
Page's advice about a campaign manager, and incidentally 
expresses his own aversion to a man of "large calibre" 
for this engagement. There were occasional conferences 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 107 

with Mr. Wilson on his Presidential prospects, one of 
which took place at Page's New York apartment. Page 
was also the man who brought Mr. Wilson and Colonel 
House together; this had the immediate result of placing 
the important state of Texas on the Wilson side, and, as 
its ultimate consequence, brought about one of the most 
important associations in the history of American politics. 
Page had known Colonel House for many years and was 
the advocate who convinced the sagacious Texan that 
Woodrow Wilson was the man. Wilson also acquired the 
habit of referring to Page men who offered themselves to 
him as volunteer workers in his cause. "Go and see 
Walter Page" was his usual answer to this kind of an ap- 
proach. But Page was not a collector of delegates to 
nominating conventions ; not his the art of manipulating 
these assemblages in the interest of a favoured man ; yet 
his services to the Wilson cause, while less demonstra- 
tive, were almost as practical. His talent lay in exposi- 
tion; and he now took upon himself the task of spreading 
Wilson's fame. In his own magazine and in books pub- 
lished by his firm, in letters to friends, in personal con- 
ferences, he set forth Wilson's achievements. Page also 
persuaded Wilson to make his famous speechmaking 
trip through the Western States in 1911 and this was per- 
haps his largest definite contribution to the Wilson cam- 
paign. It was in the course of this historic pilgrimage that 
the American masses obtained their first view of a pre- 
viously too-much hidden figure. 

On election day Page wrote the President-elect a letter 
of congratulation which contains one item of the greatest 
interest. When the time came for the new President to 
deliver his first message to Congress, he surprised the 
country by abandoning the usual practice of sending a 
long written communication to be droned out by a read- 



108 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ing clerk to a yawning company of legislators. He ap- 
peared in person and read the document himself. As 
President Harding has followed his example it seems likely 
that this innovation, which certainly represents a great 
improvement over the old routine, has become the estab- 
lished custom. The origin of the idea therefore has 
historic value. 

To Woodrow Wilson 

Garden City, N. Y. 
Election Day, 19i2. [Nov. 5] 
My dear Mr. President-elect: 

Before going into town to hear the returns, I write you 
my congratulations. Even if you were defeated, I should 
still congratulate you on putting a Presidential campaign 
on a higher level than it has ever before reached since 
Washington's time. Your grip became firmer and your 
sweep wider every week. It was inspiring to watch the 
unfolding of the deep meaning of it and to see the people 's 
grasp of the main idea. It was fairly, highly, freely, won, 
and now we enter the Era of Great Opportunity. It 
is hard to measure the extent or the thrill of the new in- 
terest in public affairs and the new hope that you have 
aroused in thousands of men who were becoming hopeless 
under the long-drawn-out reign of privilege. 

To the big burden of suggestions that you are receiving, 
may I add these small ones? 

1. Call Congress in extra session mainly to revise the 
tariff and incidentally to prepare the way for rural credit 
societies. 

Mr. Taft set the stage admirably in 1909 when he 
promptly called an extra session; but then he let the 
villain run the play. To get the main job in hand at 
once will be both dramatic and effective and it will save 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 109 

lime. Moreover, it will give you this great tactical ad- 
vantage — you can the better keep in line those who have 
debts or doubts before you have answered their importun- 
ities for offices and for favours. 

The time is come when the land must be developed by 
the new r agriculture and farming made a business. This 
calls for money. Every acre will repay a reasonable loan 
on long time at a fair interest rate, and group-borrowing 
develops the men quite as much as the men will develop 
the soil. It saved the German Empire and is remakh :g 
Italy. And this is the proper use of much of the money 
that now flows into the reach of the credit barons. This 
building up of farm life will restore the equilibrium cf 
our civilization and, besides, will prove to be one half the 
solution of our currency and credit problem. . . . 

2. Set your trusted friends immediately to work, every 
man in the field he knows best, to prepare briefs for you 
on such great subjects and departments as the Currency, 
the Post Office, Conservation, Rural Credit, the Agri- 
cultural Department, which has the most direct power 
for good to the most people — to make our farmers as 
independent as Denmark's and to give our best country 
folk the dignity of the old-time English gentleman 
— this expert, independent information to compare with 
your own knowledge and with official reports. 

3. The President reads (or speaks) his Inaugural to the 
people. Why not go back to the old custom of himself 
delivering his Messages to Congress? Would that not 
restore a feeling of comradeship in responsibility and 
make the Legislative branch feel nearer to the Executive? 
Every President of our time has sooner or later got aw ay 
with Congress. 

I cannot keep from saying what a new thrill of hope and 
tingle of expectancy I feel — as of a great event about to 



110 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

happen for our country and for the restoration of popu- 
lar government; for you will keep your rudder true. 

Most heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 
To Governor Wilson, 
Princeton, N. J. 

Page was one of the first of Mr. Wilson's friends to 
discuss with the President-elect the new legislative pro- 
gramme. The memorandum which he made of this 
interview shows how little any one, in 1912, appreciated 
the tremendous problems that Mr. Wilson would have to 
face. Only domestic matters then seemed to have the 
slightest importance. Especially significant is the fact 
that even at this early date, Page was chiefly impressed 
by Mr. Wilson's "loneliness." 

Memorandum dated November 15, 1912 

To use the Government, especially the Department of 
Agriculture and the Bureau of Education, to help actively 
in the restoration of country life — that's the great chance 
for Woodrow Wilson, ten days ago elected President. 
Precisely how well he understands this chance, how well, 
for example, he understands the grave difference between 
the Knapp Demonstration method of teaching farmers 
and the usual Agricultural College method of lecturing to 
them, and what he knows about the rising movement for 
country schools of the right sort, and agricultural credit 
societies — how all this great constructive problem of 
Country Life lies in his mind, who knows? I do not. 
If I do not know, who does know? The political mana- 
gers who have surrounded him these six months have 
now done their task. They know nothing of this Big 
Chance and Great Outlook. And for the moment they 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 111 

have left him alone. In two days he will go to Bermuda 
for a month to rest and to meditate. He ought to meditate 
on this Constructive programme. It seemed my duty 
to go and tell him about it. I asked for an interview and 
he telegraphed to go to-day at five o'clock. 

Arthur and I drove in the car and reached Princeton 
just before five — a beautiful drive of something less than 
four hours from New York. Presently we arrived at the 
Wilson house. 

"The Governor is engaged," I was informed by the 
man who opened the door. "He can see nobody. He 
is going away to-morrow." 

"I have an appointment with him," said I, and I gave 
him my card. 

"I know he can't see anybody." 

"Will you send my card in?" 

We waited at the door till the maid took it in and 
returned to say the Governor would presently come 
down. 

The reception room had a desk in the corner, and on a 
row of chairs across the whole side of the room were 
piles of unopened letters. It is a plain, modestly but 
decently furnished room, such as you would expect to 
find in the modest house of a professor at Princeton. 
During his presidency of the college, he had lived in the 
President's house in the college yard. This was his own 
house of his professorial days. 

"Hello, Page, come out here: I am glad to see you." 
There he stood in a door at the back of the room, which 
led to his library and work room. "Come back here." 

"In the best of all possible worlds, the right thing does 
sometimes happen," said I. 

"Yes." 

"And a great opportunity." 



112 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

He smiled and was cordial and said some pleasant 
words. But he was weary. "I have cobwebs in my 
head." He was not depressed but oppressed — rather 
shy, I thought, and I should say rather lonely. The 
campaign noise and the little campaigners were hushed 
and gone. There were no men of companionable size 
about him, and the Great Task lay before him. The 
Democratic party has not brought forward large men in 
public life during its long term of exclusion from the 
Government; and the newly elected President has had 
few opportunities and a very short time to make acquaint- 
ances of a continental kind. This little college town, this 
little hitherto corrupt state, are both small. 

I went at my business without delay. The big country- 
life idea, the working of great economic forces to put its 
vitalization within sight, the coming equilibrium by the 
restoration of country life — all coincident with his coming 
into the Presidency. His Administration must fall in 
with it, guide it, further it. The chief instruments are 
the Agricultural Department, the Bureau of Education, 
and the power of the President himself to bring about 
Rural Credit Societies and similar organized helps. He 
quickly saw the difference between Demonstration Work 
by the Agricultural Department and the plan to vote 
large sums to agricultural colleges and to the states to 
build up schools. 

"Who is the best man for Secretary of Agriculture?" 

I ought to have known, but I didn't. For who is? 

"May I look about and answer your question later?" 

"Yes, I will thank you." 

"I wish to find the very best men for my Cabinet, re- 
gardless of consequences. I do not forget the party as 
an instrument of government, and I do not wish to do 
violence to it. But I must have the best men in the 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 113 

Nation" — with a very solemn tone as he sat bolt upright, 
with a stern look on his face, and a lonely look. 

I told him my idea of the country school that must be 
and talked of the Bureau of Education. He saw quick h 
and assented to all my propositions. 

And then we talked somewhat more conservatively of 
Conservation, about which he knows less. 

I asked if he would care to have me make briefs about 
the Agricultural Department, the Bureau of Education, 
the Rural Credit Societies, and Conservation. "I shall 
be very grateful, if it be not too great a sacrifice." 

I had gained that permission, which (if he respect my 
opinion) ought to guide him somewhat toward a real 
understanding of how the Government may help toward 
our Great Constructive Problem. 

I gained also the impression that he has no sympathy 
with the idea of giving government grants to schools and 
agricultural colleges — a very distinct impression. 

I had been with him an hour and had talked (I fear) 
too much. But he seemed hearty in his thanks. He 
came to the front door with me, insisted on helping me 
on with my coat, envied me the motor-car drive in the 
night back to New York, spoke to eight or ten reporters 
who had crowded into the hall for their interview — a 
most undignified method, it seemed to me, for a President- 
elect to reach the public; I stepped out on the muddy 
street, and, as I walked to the Inn, I had the feeling of 
the man's oppressive loneliness as he faced his great task. 
There is no pomp of circumstance, nor hardly dignity 
in this setting, except the dignity of his seriousness and 
his loneliness. 

There was a general expectation that Page would become 
a member of President Wilson's Cabinet, and the place 



114 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

for which he seemed particularly qualified was the Secre- 
taryship of Agriculture. The smoke of battle had hardly 
passed away, therefore, when Page's admirers began 
bringing pressure to bear upon the President-elect. 
There was probably no man in the United States who had 
such completely developed views about this Department 
as Page; and it is not improbable that, had circumstances 
combined to offer him this position, he would have ac- 
cepted it. But fate in matters of this sort is sometimes 
kinder than a man's friends. Page had a great horror of 
anything which suggested office-seeking, and the cam- 
paign which now was started in his interest greatly 
embarrassed him. He wrote Mr. Wilson, disclaiming 
all responsibility and begging him to ignore these 
misguided efforts. As the best way of checking the 
movement, Page now definitely answered Mr. Wilson's 
question: Who was the best man for the Agricultural 
Department? It is interesting to note that the candidate 
whom Page nominated in this letter — a man who had 
been his friend for many years and an associate on the 
Southern Education Board — was the man whom Mr. 
Wilson chose. 

To Woodrow Wilson 

Garden City, N. Y. 

November 27, 1912. 
My dear Wilson: 

I send you (wrongly, perhaps, when you are trying to 
rest) the shortest statement that I could make about the 
demonstration field-work of the Department of Agricul- 
ture. This is the best tool yet invented to shape country 
life. Other (and shorter) briefs will be ready in a little 
while. 

You asked me who I thought was the best man for Secre- 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 115 

tary of Agriculture. Houston, 1 I should say, of the men 
that I know. You will find my estimate of him in the 
little packet of memoranda. Van Hise 2 may be as good or 
even better if he be young in mind and adaptable enough. 
But he seems to me a man who may already have done 
his big job. 

I answer the other questions you asked at Princeton 
and I have taken the liberty to send some memoranda 
about a few other men — on the theory that every friend 
of yours ought now to tell you with the utmost frankness 
about the men he knows, of whom you may be thinking. 

The building up of the countryman is the big con- 
structive job of our time. When the countryman comes 
to his own, the town man will no longer be able to tax, 
and to concentrate power, and to bully the world. 

Very heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

To Henry Wallace 

Garden City, N. Y. 
11 March, 1913. 
My dear Uncle Henry: 

What a letter yours is ! By George ! we must get on the 
job, you and I, of steering the world — get on it a little 
more actively. Else it may run amuck. We have 
frightful responsibilities in this matter. The subject 
weighs the more deeply and heavily on me because I am 
just back from a month's vacation in North Carolina, 
where I am going to build me a winter and old-age bunga- 
low. No; you would be disappointed if you went out of 



! Mr. David F. Houston, ex-President of the University of Texas, and in 1912 
Chancellor of the Washington University of St. Louis. 

2 Charles R. Van Hise, President of the University of Wisconsin. 



116 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

your way to see my boys. Moreover, they are now 
merely clearing land. They sold out the farm they put 
in shape, after two years' work, for just ten times what 
it had cost, and they are now starting another one de 
novo. About a year hence, they'll have something to 
show. And next winter, when my house is built down 
there, I want you to come and see me and see that coun- 
try. I'll show you one of the most remarkable farmers' 
clubs you ever saw and many other interesting things as 
Avell — many, very many. I'm getting into this farm 
business in dead earnest. That's the dickens of it: how 
can I do my share in our partnership to run the universe 
if I give my time to cotton-growing problems? It's a 
tangled world. 

Well, bless your soul! You and the younger Wallaces 
(my regards to every one of them) and Poe 1 — you are all 
very kind to think of me for that difficult place— too dif- 
ficult by far, for me. Besides, it would have cost me my 
life. If I were to go into public life, I should have had 
to sell my whole interest here. This would have meant 
that I could never make another dollar. More than that, 
I'd have thrown away a trade that I've learned and gone 
at another one that I know little about — a bad change, 
surely. So, you see, there never was anything serious 
in this either in my mind or in the President's. Arthur 
hit it off right one day when somebody asked him: 

"Is your father going to take the Secretaryship of 
Agriculture?" 

He replied : " Not seriously." 

Besides, the President didn't ask me! He knew too 
much for that. 

But he did ask me who would be a good man and I 
said "Houston." You are not quite fair to him in your 

'Clarence Poe, editor of The Progressive Farmer. 




Charles D. Mclver of Greensboro, North Carolina, a 
leader in the cause of Southern Education 









W k ' M 














rfl 


fe 


^^Hj^^H jf v . JBB 






t^Lj^^,, . 




,. vft, ^H i^jvaS 



Wood row Wilson in 1912 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 117 

editorial. He does know — knows much and well and is 
the strongest man in the Cabinet — in promise. The 
farmers don't yet know him: that's the only trouble. 
Give him a chance. 

I've "put it up" to the new President and to the new 
Secretary to get on the job immediately of organizing 
country life. I've drawn up a scheme (a darned good one, 
too) which they have. I have good hope that they'll 
get to it soon and to the thing that we have all been 
working toward. I'm very hopeful about this. I told 
them both last week to get their minds on this before the 
wolves devour them. Don't you think it better to work 
with the Government and to try to steer it right than to 
go off organizing other agencies? 

God pity our new masters ! The President is all right. 
He's sound, earnest, courageous. But his party! I still 
have some muscular strength. In certain remote regions 
they still break stones in the road by hand. Now I'll 
break stones before I'd have a job at Washington now. 
I spent four days with them last week — the new crowd. 
They'll try their best. I think they'll succeed. But, if 
they do succeed and survive, they'll come out of the 
scrimmage bleeding and torn. We've got to stand off and 
run 'em, Uncle Henry. That's the only hope I see for the 
country. Don't damn Houston, then, beforehand. He's 
a real man. Let's get on the job and tell 'em how. 

Now, when you come East, come before you need to 
get any of your meetings and strike a bee-line for Garden 
City; and don't be in a hurry when you get here. If a 
Presbyterian meeting be necessary for your happiness, 
I'll drum up one on the Island for you. And, of course, 
you must come to my house and pack up right and get 
your legs steady sometime before you sail — you and 
Mrs. Wallace: will she not go with you? 



118 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

In the meantime, don't be disgruntled. We can steer 
the old world right, if you'll just keep your shoulder to 
the wheel. We'll work it all out here in the summer and 
verify it all (including your job of setting the effete 
kingdoms of Europe all right) — we'll verify it all next 
winter down in North Carolina. I think things have 
got such a start that they'll keep going in some fashion, 
till we check up the several items, political, ethical, agri- 
cultural, journalistic, and international. God bless us 
all! 

Most heartily always yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

Though Mr. Wilson did not offer Page the Agricultural 
Department, he much desired to have him in his Cabinet, 
and had already decided upon him for a post which the 
new President probably regarded as more important — 
the Interior. The narrow margin with which Page 
escaped this responsibility illustrates again the slender 
threads upon which history is constructed. The episode 
is also not without its humorous side. For there was 
only one reason why Page did not enter the Cabinet as 
Secretary of the Interior ; and that is revealed in the above 
letter to "Uncle Henry"; he was so busy planning his 
new house in the sandhills of North Carolina that, while 
cabinets were being formed and great decisions taken, 
he was absent from New York. A short time before the 
inauguration, Mr. Wilson asked Colonel House to ar- 
range a meeting with Page in the latter's apartment. 
Mr. Wilson wished to see him on a Saturday; the pur- 
pose was to offer him the Secretaryship of the Interior. 
Colonel House called up Page's office at Garden City and 
was informed that he was in North Carolina. Colonel 
House then telegraphed asking Page to start north im- 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 119 

mediately, and suggesting the succeeding Monday as a 
good time for the interview. A reply was at once re- 
ceived from Page that he was on his way. 

Meanwhile certain of Mr. Wilson's advisers had heard 
of the plan and were raising objections. Page was a 
Southerner; the Interior Department has supervision 
over the pension bureau, with its hundreds of thousands 
of Civil War veterans as pensioners; moreover, Page was 
an outspoken enemy of the whole pension system and 
had led several "campaigns" against it. The appoint- 
ment would never do! Mr. Wilson himself was per- 
suaded that it would be a mistake. 

"But what are we going to do about Page?" asked 
Colonel House. "I have summoned him from North 
Carolina on important business. What excuse shall I 
give for bringing him way up here?" 

But the President-elect was equal to the emergency. 

"Here's the cabinet list," he drily replied. "Show it 
to Page. Tell him these are the people I have about de- 
cided to appoint and ask him what he thinks of them. 
Then he will assume that we summoned him to get his 
advice." 

When Page made his appearance, therefore, Colonel 
House gave him the list of names and solemnly asked him 
what he thought of them. The first name that attracted 
Page's attention was that of Josephus Daniels, as Secre- 
tary of the Navy. Page at once expressed his energetic 
dissent. 

"Why, don't you think he is Cabinet timber?" asked 
Colonel House. 

"Timber!" Page fairly shouted. "He isn't a splinter! 
Have you got a time table? When does the next train 
leave for Princeton?" 

In a couple of hours Page was sitting with Mr. Wilson, 



120 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

earnestly protesting against Mr. Daniels's appointment. 
But Mr. Wilson said that he had already offered Mr. 
Daniels the place. 

ii 

About the time of Wilson's election a great calamity 
befell one of Page's dearest friends. Dr. Edwin A. Alder- 
man, the President of the University of Virginia, one of 
the pioneer educational forces in the Southern States, 
and for years an associate of Page on the General Edu- 
cation Board, was stricken with tuberculosis. He was 
taken to Saranac, and here a patient course of treatment 
happily restored him to health. One of the dreariest 
aspects of such an experience is its tediousness and loneli- 
ness. Yet the maintenance of one's good spirits and 
optimism is an essential part of the treatment. And it 
was in this work that Page now proved an indispensable 
aid to the medical men. As soon as Dr. Alderman found 
himself stretched out, a weak and isolated figure, cut off 
from those activities and interests which had been his 
inspiration for forty years, with no companions except 
his own thoughts and a few sufferers like himself, letters 
began to arrive with weekly regularity from the man 
whom he always refers to as "dear old Page." The 
gayety and optimism of these letters, the lively com- 
ments which they passed upon men and things, and their 
wholesome and genial philosophy, were largely instru- 
mental, Dr. Alderman has always believed, in his re- 
covery. Their effect was so instant and beneficial that 
the physicians asked to have them read to the other 
patients, who also derived abounding comfort and joy 
from them. The whole episode was one of the most 
beautiful in Page's life, and brings out again that gift 
for friendship which was perhaps his finest quality. For 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 121 

this reason it is a calamity that most of these letters have 
not been preserved. The few that have survived are 
interesting not only in themselves; they reveal Page's 
innermost thoughts on the subject of Woodrow Wilson. 
That he admired the new President is evident, yet these 
letters make it clear that, even in 1912 and 1913, there 
was something about Mr. Wilson that caused him to 
hesitate, to entertain doubts, to wonder how, after all, 
the experiment was to end. 

To Edwin A. Alderman 

Garden City, L. I. 
December 31, 1912. 
My dear Ed Alderman : 

I have a new amusement, a new excitement, a new 
study, as you have and as we all have who really believe 
in democracy — a new study, a new hope, and sometimes 
a new fear; and its name is Wilson. I have for many 
years regarded myself as an interested, but always a 
somewhat detached, outsider, believing that the demo- 
cratic idea was real and safe and lifting, if we could ever 
get it put into action, contenting myself ever with such 
patches of it as time and accident and occasion now and 
then sewed on our gilded or tattered garments. But now 
it is come — the real thing; at any rate a man somewhat 
like us, whose thought and aim and dream are our thought 
and aim and dream. That's enormously exciting! I 
didn't suppose I'd ever become so interested in a general 
proposition or in a governmental hope. 

Will he do it? Can he do it? Can anybody do it? 
How can we help him do it? Now that the task is on 
him, does he really understand? Do I understand him 
and he me? There's a certain unreality about it. 

The man himself— I find that nobody quite knows him 



122 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

now. Alas! I wonder if he quite knows himself . Tem- 
peramentally very shy, having lived too much alone and 
far too much with women (how I wish two of his daugh- 
ters were sons!) this Big Thing having descended on him 
before he knew or was quite prepared for it, thrust into a 
whirl of self-seeking men even while he is trying to think 
out the theory of the duties that press, knowing the 
necessity of silence, surrounded by small people — well, I 
made up my mind that his real friends owed it to him and 
to what we all hope for, to break over his reserve and to 
volunteer help. He asks for conferences with official folk 
— only, I think. So I began to write memoranda about 
those subjects of government about which I know some- 
thing and have opinions and about men who are or who 
may be related to them. It has been great sport to 
set down in words without any reserve precisely what 
you think. It is imprudent, of course, as most things 
worth doing are. But what have I to lose, I who have 
my life now planned and laid out and have got far beyond 
the reach of gratitude or hatred or praise or blame or 
fear of any man? I sent him some such memoranda. 
Here came forthwith a note of almost abject thanks. I 
sent more. Again, such a note — written in his own hand. 
Yet not a word of what he thinks. The Sphinx was gar- 
rulous in comparison. Then here comes a mob of my 
good friends crying for office for me. So I sent a ten- 
line note, by the hand of my secretary, saying that this 
should not disturb my perfect frankness nor (I knew it 
would not) his confidence. Again, a note in his own 
hand, of perfect understanding and with the very glow of 
gratitude. And he talks — generalities to the public. 
Perhaps that's all he can talk now. Wise? Yes. But 
does he know the men about him? Does he really know 
men? Nobody knows. Thus 'twixt fear and hope I 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 123 

see— suspense. I'll swear I can't doubt, I can't believe. 
Whether it is going to work out or not — whether he or 
anybody can work it out of the haze of theory — nobody 
knows; and nobody's speculation is better than mine and 
mine is worthless. 

This is the game, this is the excitement, this is the 
doubthope and the hopedoubt. I send this word about 
it to you (I could and would to nobody else: you're snow- 
bound, you see, and don't write much and don't see many 
people: restrain your natural loquacity!) But for the 
love of heaven tell me if you see any way very clearly. 
It's a kind of misty dream to me. 

I ask myself why should I concern myself about it? 
Of course the answer's easy and I think creditable: I do 
profoundly hold this democratic faith and believe that 
it can be worked into action among men; and it may be 
I shall yet see it done. That's the secret of my interest. 
But when this awful office descends on a man, it op- 
presses him, changes him, you are not quite so sure of 
him, you doubt whether he knows himself or you in the 
old way. 

And I find among men the very crudest ideas of gov- 
ernment or of democracy. They have not thought the 
thing out. They hold no ordered creed of human organ- 
ization or advancement. They leave all to chance and 
think, when they think at all, that chance determines it. 
And yet the Great Hope persists, and I think I have 
grown an inch by it. 

I wonder how it seems, looked at from the cold moun- 
tains of Lake Saranac? 

It's the end of the year. Mrs. Page and I (alone!) 
have been talking of democracy, of these very things 
I've written. The bell-ringing and the dancing and 
the feasting are not, on this particular year, to our liking. 



124 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

We see all our children gone— half of them to nests of 
their own building, the rest on errands of their own 
pleasure, and we are left, young yet, but the main job 
of life behind us! We're going down to a cottage in 
southern North Carolina (with our own cook and motor 
car, praise God!) for February, still further to think 
this thing out and incidentally to build us a library, in 
which we'll live when we can. That, for convention's 
sake, we call a Vacation. 

Your brave note came to-day. Of course, you'll 
"get" 'em — those small enemies. The gain of twelve 
pounds tells the story. The danger is, your season of 
philosophy and reverie will be too soon ended. Don't 
fret; the work and the friends will be here when you come 
down. There's many a long day ahead; and there may 
not be so many seasons of rest and meditation. You are 
the only man I know who has time enough to think out a 
clear answer to this: "What ought to be done with 
Bryan?" What can be done with Bryan? When you 
find the answer, telegraph it to me. 

I've a book or two more to send you. If they interest 
you, praise the gods. If they bore you, fling 'em in the 
snow and think no worse of me. You can't tell what a 
given book may be worth to a given man in an unknown 
mood. They've become such a commodity to me that 
I thank my stars for a month away from them when I 
may come at 'em at a different angle and really need a 
few old ones— Wordsworth, for instance. When you get 
old enough, you'll wake up some day with the feeling 
that the world is much more beautiful than it was when 
you were young, that a landscape has a closer meaning, 
that the sky is more companionable, that outdoor colour 
and motion are more splendidly audacious and beauti- 
fully rhythmical than you had ever thought. That's 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 125 

true. The gently snow-clad little pines out my window 
are more to me than the whole Taft Administration. 
They'll soon be better than the year's dividends. And 
the few great craftsmen in words who can confirm this 
feeling — they are the masters you become grateful for. 
Then the sordidness of the world lies far beneath you 
and your great democracy is truly come — the democracy 
of Nature. To be akin to a tree, in this sense, is as good 
as to be akin to a man. I have a grove of little long-leaf 
pines down in the old country and I know they'll have 
some consciousness of me after all men have forgotten 
me: I've saved 'em, and they'll sing a century of grati- 
tude if I can keep 'em saved. Joe Holmes gave me a dis- 
sertation on them the other day. He was down there 
"on a little Sunday jaunt" of forty miles — the best legs 
and the best brain that ever worked together in one 
anatomy. 

A conquering New Year — that's what you'll find, be- 
gun before this reaches you, carrying all good wishes from 

Yours affectionately, 
W. H. P. 

To Edwin A. Alderman 

Garden City, New York, 
January 26, 1913. 
My dear Ed Alderman: 

This has been "Board" 1 week, as you know. The 
men came from all quarters of the land, and we had a 
good time. New work is opening; old work is going well; 
the fellowship ran in good tide — except that everybody 
asked everybody else: "What do you know about 
Alderman?" Everybody who had late news of you gave 

J The reference is to the meeting of the Southern and the General Education 
Boards. 



126 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

a good report. The Southern Board formally passed a 
resolution to send affectionate greetings to you and 
high hope and expectation, and I was commissioned to 
frame the message. This is it. I shall write no formal 
resolution, for that wasn't the spirit of it. The fellows 
all asked me, singly and collectively, to send their love. 
And we don't put that sort of a message under whereases 
and wherefores. There they were, every one of them, ex- 
cept Peabody and Bowie. Mr. Ogden in particular was 
anxious for his emphatic remembrance and good wishes 
to go. The dear old man is fast passing into the last 
stage of his illness and he knows it and he soon expects 
the end, in a mood as brave and as game as he ever w as. 
I am sorry to tell you he suffers a good deal of pain. 

What a fine thing to look back over — this Southern 
Board's work ! Here was a fine, zealous merchant twenty 
years ago, then fifty-seven years old, who saw this big 
job as a modest layman. If he had known more about 
"Education" or more about "the South, bygawd, sir!" 
he'd never have had the courage to tackle the job. But with 
the bravery of ignorance, he turned out to be the w isest 
man on that task in our generation. He has united every 
real, good force, and he showed what can be done in a 
democracy even by one zealous man. I've sometimes 
thought that this is possibly the wisest single piece of 
work that I have ever seen done — wisest, not smartest. 
I don't know what can be done when he's gone. His 
phase of it is really done. But, if another real leader 
arise, there will doubtless be another phase. 

The General Board doesn't find much more college- 
endowing to do. We made only one or two gifts. But 
we are trying to get the country school task rightly fo- 
cussed. We haven't done it yet; but we will. Buttrick 
and Rose will work it out. I wish to God I could throw 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 127 

down my practical job and go at it with 'em. Darned if 
I couldn't get it going! though / say it, as shouldn't. 
And we are going pretty soon to begin with the medical 
colleges; that, I think, is good — very. 

But the most efficient workmanlike piece of organiza- 
tion that my mortal eyes have ever seen is Rose 's hook- 
worm work. We're going soon to organize country life 
in a sanitary way, the county health officer being the 
biggest man on the horizon. Stiles has moved his marine 
hospital and his staff to Wilmington, North Carolina, and 
he and the local health men are quietly going to make New 
Hanover the model county for sanitary condition and 
efficiency. You'll know what a vast revolution that de- 
notes! — And Congress seems likely to charter the big 
Rockefeller Foundation, which will at once make five 
millions available for chasing the hookworm off the face of 
the earth. Rose will spread himself over Honduras, etc., 
etc., and China, and India! This does literally beat the 
devil; for, if the hookworm isn't the devil, what is? 

I 'm going to farming. I 've two brothers and two sons, 
all young and strong, who believe in the game. We have 
land without end, thousands of acres; engines to pull 
stumps, to plough, to plant, to reap. The nigger go hang! 
A white boy with an engine can outdo a dozen of 'em. 
Cotton and corn for staple crops; peaches, figs, scupper- 
nongs, vegetables, melons for incidental crops; God's 
good air in North Carolina; good roads, too — why, man, 
Moore County has authorized the laying out of a strip 
of land along all highways to be planted in shrubbery 
and fruit trees and kept as a park, so that you will motor 
for 100 miles through odorous bloom in spring! — I mean 
I am going down there to-morrow for a month, one day for 
golf at Pinehurst, the next day for clearing land with an 
oil locomotive, ripping up stumps! Every day for life 



128 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

out-of-doors and every night, too. I'm going to grow 
dasheens. You know what a dasheen is? It's a Trini- 
dad potato, which keeps and tastes like a sweet potato 
stuffed with chestnuts. There are lots of things to learn 
in this world. 

God bless us all, old man. It's a pretty good world, 
whether seen from the petty excitements of reforming the 
world and dreaming of a diseaseless earth in New York, 
or from the stump-pulling recreation of a North Carolina 
wilderness. 

Health be with you! 

W. H. P. 

To Edwin A. Alderman 

Garden City, L. I. 
March 10, 1913. 
My dear Ed Alderman: 

I 'm home from a month of perfect climate in the sand- 
hills of North Carolina, where I am preparing a farm and 
building a home at least for winter use; and I had the 
most instructive and interesting month of my life there. 
I believe I see, even in my life-time, the coming of a kind 
of man and a kind of life that shall come pretty near to 
being the model American citizen and the model American 
way to live. Half of it is climate; a fourth of it occupa- 
tion; the other fourth, companionship. And the climate 
(with what it does) is three fourths companionship. 

Then I came to Washington and saw Wilson made Pres- 
ident — a very impressive experience indeed. The future 
— God knows; but I believe in Wilson very thoroughly. 
Men fool him yet. Men fool us all. He has already 
made some mistakes. But he 's sound. And, if we have 
moral courage enough to beat back the grafters, little and 
big — I mean if we, the people, will vote two years and 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 129 

four years hence, to keep them back, I think that we shall 
now really work toward a democratic government. I 
have a stronger confidence in government now as an in- 
strument of human progress than I have ever had before. 
And I find it an exhilarating and exciting experience. 

I have seen many of your good friends in North Caro- 
lina, Virginia, and Washington. How we all do love you, 
old man! Don't forget that, in your successful fight. 
And, with my affectionate greetings to Mrs. Alderman, ask 
her to send me the news of your progress. 

Always affectionately yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

To Edwin A. Alderman 

On the Baltic, New York to Liverpool, 

May 19, 1913. 
My dear Ed Alderman: 

It was the best kind of news I heard of you during my 
last weeks at home — every day of which I wished to go to 
Briarcliff to see you. At a distance, it seems absurd to 
say that it was impossible to go. But it was. I set down 
five different days in my calendar for this use; and some- 
how every one of them was taken. Two were taken by 
unexpected calls to Washington. Another was taken by 
my partners who arranged a little good-bye dinner. An- 
other was taken by the British Ambassador — and so on. 
Absurd — of course it was absurd, and I feel now as if it 
approached the criminal. But every stolen day I said, 
"Well, I'll find another." But another never came. 

But good news of you came by many hands and mouths. 
My congratulations, my cheers, my love, old man. Now 
when you do take up work again, don't take up all the 
work. Show the fine virtue called self-restraint. We 
work too much and too hard and do too many things even 



130 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

when we are well. There are three titled Englishmen who 
sit at the table with me on this ship — one a former Lord 
Mayor of London, another a peer, and the third an M. P. 
Damn their self-sufficiencies! They do excite my envy. 
They don't shoulder the work of the world: they shoulder 
the world and leave the work to be done by somebody else. 
Three days' stories and political discussion with them have 
made me wonder why the devil I've been so industrious 
all my life. They know more than I know; they are 
richer than I am; they have been about the world more 
than I have; they are far more influential than I am; and 
yet one of them asked me to-day if George Washington 
was a born American! I said to him, "Where the devil 
do you suppose he came from — Hades? " And he laughed 
at himself as heartily as the rest of us laughed at him, 
and didn't care a hang! 

If that's British, I've a mind to become British; and, 
the point is, you must, too. Work is a curse. There was 
some truth in that old doctrine. At any rate a little of it 
must henceforth go a long way with you. 

A sermon? Yes. But, since it's a good one, I know 
you'll forgive me; for it is preached in love, my dear boy, 
and accompanied with the hearty and insistent hope that 
you'll write to me. 

Affectionately, 

Walter Page. 

This last letter apparently anticipates the story. A 
few weeks before it was written President Wilson had 
succeeded in carrying out his determination to make Page 
an important part of his Administration. One morning 
Page's telephone rang and Colonel Houses well-known 
and well-modulated voice came over the wire. 

"Good morning, Your Excellency," was his greeting. 



THE WILSONIAN ERA BEGINS 131 

"What the devil are you talking about?" asked Page. 

Then Colonel House explained himself. The night 
before, he said, he had dined at the White House. In a 
pause of the conversation the President had quietly re- 
marked : 

"I've about made up my mind to send Walter Page 
to England. What do you think of that?" 

Colonel House thought very well of it indeed and the 
result of his conversation was this telephone call, in which 
he was authorized to offer Page the Ambassadorship to 
Great Britain. 



CHAPTER V 

ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 

THE London Embassy is the greatest diplomatic gift 
at the disposal of the President, and, in the minds of 
the American people, it possesses a glamour and an his- 
toric importance all its own. Page came to the position, 
as his predecessors had come, with a sense of awe ; the great 
traditions of the office ; the long fine of distinguished men, 
from Thomas Pinckney to Whitelaw Reid, who had filled 
it; the peculiar delicacy of the problems that then existed 
between the two countries; the reverent respect which 
Page had always entertained for English history, English 
literature, and English public men — all these considera- 
tions naturally quickened the new ambassador's im- 
agination and, at the same time, made his arrival in Eng- 
land a rather solemn event. Yet his first days in London 
had their grotesque side as well. He himself has recorded 
his impressions, and, since they contain an important 
lesson for the citizens of the world's richest and most 
powerful Republic, they should be preserved. When the 
ambassador of practically any other country reaches 
London, he finds waiting for him a spacious and beautiful 
embassy, filled with a large corps of secretaries and ser- 
vants — everything ready, to the minutest detail, for the 
beginning of his labours. He simply enters these elabo- 
rate state-owned and state-supported quarters and starts 
work. How differently the mighty United States wel- 
comes its ambassadors let Page 's memorandum tell : 

132 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 133 

The boat touched at Queenstown, and a mass cf Irish 
reporters came aboard and wished to know what I thought 
of Ireland. Some of them printed the important announce- 
ment that I was quite friendly to Ireland! At Liverpool 
was Mr. Laughlin, 1 Charge d' Affaires in London since Mr. 
Reid 's death, to meet me, and of course the consul, Mr. 
Washington. . . . On our arrival in London, Laughlin 
explained that he had taken quarters for me at the Co- 
burg Hotel, whither we drove, after having fought my way 
through a mob of reporters at the station. One fellow told 
me that since I left New York the papers had published a 
declaration by me that I meant to be very "democratic" 
and would under no conditions wear "knee breeches" ; and 
he asked me about that report. I was foolish enough to 
reply that the existence of an ass in the United States ought 
not necessarily to require the existence of a corresponding 
ass in London. He printed that ! I never knew the origin 
of this "knee breeches" story. 

That residence at the Coburg Hotel for three months 
was a crowded and uncomfortable nightmare. The 
indignity and inconvenience — even the humiliation — of an 
ambassador beginning his career in an hotel, especially 
during the Court season, and a green ambassador at 
that! I hope I may not die before our Government 
does the conventional duty to provide ambassadors' resi- 
dences. 

The next morning I went to the Chancery (123, Vic- 
toria Street) and my heart sank. I had never in my life 
been in an American Embassy. I had had no business 
with them in Paris or in London on my previous visits. 
In fact I had never been in any embassy except the 
British Embassy at Washington. But the moment I 



l Mr. Irwin Laughlin, first secretary of the American Embassy in London. 



134 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

entered that dark and dingy hall at 123, Victoria Street, 
between two cheap stores — the same entrance that the 
dwellers in the cheap flats above used — I knew that Uncle 
Sam had no fit dwelling there. And the Ambassador's 
room greatly depressed me — dingy with twenty-nine years 
of dirt and darkness, and utterly undignified. And the 
rooms for the secretaries and attaches were the little bed- 
rooms, kitchen, etc., of that cheap flat; that's all it was. 
For the place we paid $1 ,500 a year. I did not understand 
then and I do not understand yet how Lowell, Bayard, 
Phelps, Hay, Choate, and Reid endured that cheap hole. 
Of course they stayed there only about an hour a day; 
but they sometimes saw important people there. And, 
whether they ever saw anybody there or not, the offices of 
the United States Government in London ought at least to 
be as good as a common lawyer's office in a country town 
in a rural state of our Union. Nobody asked for anything 
for an embassy : nobody got anything for an embassy. I 
made up my mind in ten minutes that I 'd get out of this 
place. 1 

At the Coburg Hotel, we were very well situated; but 
the hotel became intolerably tiresome. Harold Fowler 
and Frank and I were there until W. A. W. P. 2 and Kitty 3 
came (and Frances Clark came with them) . Then we were 
just a little too big a hotel party. Every morning I drove 
down to the old hole of a Chancery and remained about 
two hours. There wasn't very much work to do; and 
my main business was to become acquainted with the 
work and with people — to find myself with reference to 



iln about a year Page moved the Chancery to the present satisfactory quar- 
ters at No. 4 Grosvenor Gardens. 

2 Mrs. Walter H. Page. 

8 Miss Katharine A. Page, the Ambassador's daughter. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 135 

this task, with reference to official life and to London life 
in general. 

Every afternoon people came to the hotel to see me — 
some to pay their respects and to make life pleasant, some 
out of mere curiosity, and many for ends of their own. I 
confess that on many days nightfall found me completely 
worn out. But the evenings seldom brought a chance to 
rest. The social season was going at its full gait; and the 
new ambassador (any new ambassador) would have been 
invited to many functions. A very few days after my ar- 
rival, the Duchess of X invited Frank and me to dinner. 
The powdered footmen were the chief novelty of the occa- 
sion for us. But I was much confused because nobody 
introduced anybody to anybody else. If a juxtaposition, 
as at the dinner table, made an introduction imperative, 
the name of the lady next you was so slurred that you 
couldn't possibly understand it. 

Party succeeded party. I went to them because they 
gave me a chance to become acquainted with people. 

But very early after my arrival, I was of course sum- 
moned by the King. I had presented a copy of my cre- 
dentials to the Foreign Secretary (Sir Edward Grey) and 
the real credentials — the original in a sealed envelope — 
I must present to His Majesty. One morning the King's 
Master of the Ceremonies, Sir Arthur Walsh, came to 
the hotel with the royal coaches, four or five of them, and 
the richly caparisoned grooms. The whole staff of the 
Embassy must go with me. We drove to Buckingham 
Palace, and, after waiting a few moments, I was ushered 
into the King's presence. He stood in one of the draw- 
ing rooms on the ground floor looking out on the garden. 
There stood with him in uniform Sir Edward Grey. I 
entered and bowed. He shook my hand, and I spoke my 
little piece of three or four sentences. 



136 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

He replied, welcoming me and immediately proceeded to 
express his surprise and regret that a great and rich coun- 
try like the United States had not provided a residence for 
its ambassadors. "It is not fair to an ambassador," 
said he ; and he spoke most earnestly. 

I reminded him that, although the lack of a home was an 
inconvenience, the trouble or discomfort that fell on an 
ambassador was not so bad as the wrong impression 
which I feared was produced about the United States 
and its Government, and I explained that we had had 
so many absorbing domestic tasks and, in general, so 
few absorbing foreign relations, that we had only begun 
to develop what might be called an international con- 
sciousness. 

Sir Edward was kind enough the next time I saw him to 
remark that I did that very well and made a good im- 
pression on the King. 

I could now begin my ambassadorial career proper — 
call on the other ambassadors and accept invitations to 
dinners and the like. 

I was told after I came from the King's presence that 
the Queen would receive me in a few minutes. I was 
shown upstairs, the door opened, and there in a small 
drawing room, stood the Queen alone — a pleasant woman, 
very royal in appearance. The one thing that sticks in 
my memory out of this first conversation with her Maj- 
esty was her remark that she had seen only one man who 
had been President of the United States— Mr. Roosevelt. 
She hoped he was well. I felt moved to remark that 
she was not likely to see many former Presidents because 
the office was so hard a task that most of them did not 
long survive. 

"I'm hoping that office will not soon kill the King," 
she said. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 137 

In time Page obtained an entirely adequate and digni- 
fied house at 6 Grosvenor Square, and soon found that the 
American Ambassadorship had compensations which were 
hardly suggested by his first glimpse of the lugubrious 
Chancery. He brought to this new existence his plastic 
and inquisitive mind, and his mighty gusto for the in- 
teresting and the unusual; he immensely enjoyed his meet- 
ings with the most important representatives of all types 
of British life. The period of his arrival marked a cri- 
sis in British history ; Mr. Lloyd George was supposed to be 
taxing the aristocracy out of existence; Mr. Asquith was 
accused of plotting the destruction of the House of Lords ; 
the tide of liberalism, even of radicalism, was running 
high, and, in the judgment of the conservative forces, 
England was tottering to its fall; the gathering mob was 
about to submerge everything that had made it great. 
And the Irish question had reached another crisis with 
the passage of the Home Rule Bill, which Sir Edward 
Carson was preparing to resist with his Irish "volun- 
teers." 

All these matters formed the staple of talk at dinner 
tables, at country houses and at the clubs ; and Page found 
constant entertainment in the variegated pageant. There 
were important American matters to discuss with the 
Foreign Office — more important than any that had arisen 
in recent years — particularly Mexico and the Pant ma 
Tolls. Before these questions are considered, however, 
it may be profitable to print a selection from the mcny 
letters which Page wrote during his first year, giving his 
impressions of this England which he had always loved 
and which a closer view made him love and admire still 
more. These letters have the advantage of presenting a 
frank and yet sympathetic picture of British society and 
British life as it was just before the war. 



138 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

To Frank N. Doubleday 

The Coburg Hotel, 
Carlos Place, Grosvenor Square, 
London, W. 
Dear Effendi: 1 

You can't imagine the intensity of the party feeling 
here. I dined to-night in an old Tory family. They had 
just had a "division" an hour or two before in the House 
of Lords on the Home Rule Bill. Six Lords were at the 
dinner and their wives. One was a Duke, two were 
Bishops, and the other three were Earls. They expect a 
general "bust-up." If the King does so and so, off with 
the King! That's what they fear the Liberals will do. 
It sounds very silly to me ; but you can 't exaggerate their 
fear. The Great Lady, who was our hostess, told me, 
with tears in her voice, that she had suspended all social 
relations with the Liberal leaders. 

At lunch — just five or six hours before — we were at 
the Prime Minister's, where the talk was precisely on the 
other side. Gladstone's granddaughter was there and 
several members of the Cabinet. 

Somehow it reminds me of the tense days of the slavery 
controversy just before the Civil War. 

Yet in the everyday life of the people, you hear nothing 
about it. It is impossible to believe that the ordinary 
man cares a fig! 

Good-night. You don't care a fig for this. But I'll 
get time to write you something interesting in a little 
while. 

Yours, 

W. H. P. 



i" Effendi" is the name by which Mr. F. N. Doubleday, Page's partner, is 
known to his intimates. It is obviously suggested by the initials of his name. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 139 

To Herbert S. Houston 

American Embassy 

London 

Sunday, 24 Aug., 1913. 

DearH. S. H.: 

. . . You know there's been much discussion of the 
decadence of the English people. I don't believe a word 
of it. They have an awful slum, I hear, as everybody 
knows, and they have an idle class. Worse, from an 
equal-opportunity point-of-view, they have a very large 
servant-class, and a large class that depends on the no- 
bility and the rich. All these are economic and social 
drawbacks. But they have always had all these — ex- 
cept that the slum has become larger in modern years. 
And I don't see or find any reason to believe in the theory 
of decadence. The world never saw a finer lot of men 
than the best of their ruling class. You may search the 
world and you may search history for finer men than 
Lord Morley, Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Harcourt, and other 
members of the present Cabinet. And I meet such 
men everywhere — gently bred, high-minded, physically 
fit, intellectually cultivated, patriotic. If the devotion 
to old forms and the inertia which makes any change al- 
most impossible strike an American as out-of-date, you 
must remember that in the grand old times of England, 
they had all these things and had them worse than they 
are now. I can't see that the race is breaking down or 
giving out. Consider how their political morals have 
been pulled up since the days of the rotten boroughs; 
consider how their court-life is now high and decent, and 
think what it once was. British trade is larger this year 
than it ever was, Englishmen are richer then they ever 
were and more of them are rich. They write and speak 



140 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

and play cricket, and govern, and fight as well as they 
have ever done — excepting, of course, the writing of 
Shakespeare. 

Another conclusion that is confirmed the more you 
see of English life is their high art of living. When they 
make their money, they stop money-making and culti- 
vate their minds and their gardens and entertain their 
friends and do all the high arts of living — to perfection. 
Three days ago a retired soldier gave a garden-party in 
my honour, twenty-five miles out of London. There 
was his historic house, a part of it 500 years old ; there were 
his ten acres of garden, his lawn, his trees ; and they walk 
with you over it all; they sit out-of-doors; they serve tea; 
they take life rationally; they talk pleasantly (not jocu- 
larly, nor story-telling) ; they abhor the smart in talk or 
in conduct; they have gentleness, cultivation, the best 
manners in the world ; and they are genuine. The hostess 
has me take a basket and go with her while she cuts it full 
of flowers for us to bring home ; and, as we walk, she tells 
the story of the place. She is a tenant-for-life ; it is 
entailed. Her husband was wounded in South Africa. 
Her heir is her nephew. The home, of course, will re- 
main in the family forever. No, they don't go to London 
much in recent years : why should they ? But they travel 
a month or more. They give three big tea-parties — one 
when the rhododendrons bloom and the others at stated 
times. They have friends to stay with them half the 
time, perhaps — sometimes parties of a dozen. England 
never had a finer lot of folk than these. And you see 
them everywhere. The art of living sanely they have 
developed to as high a level, I think, as you will find at 
any time in any land. 

The present political battle is fiercer than you would 
ever guess. The Lords feel that they are sure to be 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 141 

robbed: they see the end of the ordered world. Chaos 
and confiscation lie before them. Yet that, too, has 
nearly always been so. It was so in the Reform Bill days. 
Lord Morley said to me the other day that when all the 
abolitions had been done, there would be fewer things 
abolished than anybody hopes or fears, and that there 
would be the same problems in some form for many 
generations. I'm beginning to believe that the English- 
man has always been afraid of the future — that's what's 
keeps him so alert. They say to me : "You have frightful 
things happen in the United States — your Governor of 
New York, 1 your Thaw case, your corruption, etc., etc.; 
and yet you seem sure and tell us that your countrymen 
feel sure of the safety of your government." In the 
newspaper comments on my Southampton 2 speech the 
other day, this same feeling cropped up; the American 
Ambassador assures us that the note of hope is the domi- 
nant note of the Republic — etc., etc. Yes, they are 
dull, in a way — not dull, so much as steady; and yet 
they have more solid sense than any other people. 

It's an interesting study — the most interesting in the 
world. The genuineness of the courtesy, the real kind- 
ness and the hospitality of the English are beyond praise 
and without limit. In this they show a strange contra- 
diction to their dickering habits in trade and their "unc- 
tuous rectitude" in stealing continents. I know a place 
in the world now where they are steadily moving their 
boundary line into other people's territory. I guess they 
really believe that the earth belongs to them. 

Sincerely, 

W. H. P. 



J A reference to William Sulzer, Governor of New York, who at this time was 
undergoing impeachment. 

2 See Chapter VIII, page 258. 



142 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

To Arthur W. Page 1 

Gordon Arms Hotel, Elgin, Scotland. 
September 6, 1913. 
Dear Arthur: 

Your mother and Kitty 2 and I are on our way to see 
Andy. 3 Had you any idea that to motor from London 
to Skibo means driving more than eight hundred miles? 
Our speedometer now shows more than seven hundred 
and we've another day to go — at least one hundred and 
thirty miles. And we haven't even had a tire accident. 
We're having a delightful journey — only this country 
yields neither vegetables nor fruits, and I have to live on 
oatmeal. They spell it p-o-r-r-i-d-g-e, and they call it 
puruge. But they beat all creation as carnivorous folk. 
We stayed last night at a beautiful mountain hotel at 
Braemar (the same town whereat Stevenson wrote "Treas- 
ure Island") and they had nine kinds of meat for dinner 
and eggs in three ways, and no vegetables but potatoes. 
But this morning we struck the same thin oatbread that 
you ate at Grandfather Mountain. 

I've never understood the Scotch. I think they are, 
without doubt, the most capable race in the world — 
away from home. But how they came to be so and how 
they keep up their character and supremacy and keep 
breeding true needs explanation. As you come through 
the country, you see the most monotonous and dingy 
little houses and thousands of robust children, all dirtier 
than niggers. In the fertile parts of the country, the 
fields are beautifully cultivated — for Lord This-and- 
T'Other who lives in London and comes up here in sum- 



J The Ambassador's son. 
2 Miss Katharine A. Page. 
s Mr. Andrew Carnegie. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 143 

mer to collect his rents and to shoot. The country people 
seem desperately poor. But they don't lose their ro- 
bustness. In the solid cities — the solidest you ever saw, 
all being of granite — such as Edinburgh and Aberdeen, 
where you see the prosperous class, they look the sturdiest 
and most independent fellows you ever saw. As they 
grow old they all look like blue-bellied Presbyterian 
elders. Scotch to the marrow — everybody and every- 
thing seem — bare knees alike on the street and in the 
hotel with dress coats on, bagpipes — there's no sense in 
these things, yet being Scotch they live forever. The 
first men I saw early this morning on the street in front 
of the hotel were two weather-beaten old chaps, with 
gray beards under their chins. "Guddddd Murrrrn- 
inggggg, Andy," said one. "Guddddd murrninggggg, 
Sandy," said the other; and they trudged on. They'd 
dethrone kings before they'd shave differently or drop 
their burrs and gutturals or cover their knees or cease 
lying about the bagpipe. And you can't get it out of 
the blood. Your mother 1 becomes provoked when I say 
these things, and I shouldn't wonder if you yourself 
resent them and break out quoting Burns. Now the 
Highlands can't support a population larger than the 
mountain counties of Kentucky. Now your Kentucky 
feud is a mere disgrace to civilization. But your High- 
land feud is celebrated in song and story. Every clan 
keeps itself together to this day by its history and by its 
plaid. At a turn in the road in the mountains yesterday, 
there stood a statue of Rob Roy painted every stripe to 
life. We saw T his sword and purse in Sir Walter's house 
at Abbotsford. The King himself wore the kilt and one 
of the plaids at the last court ball at Buckingham Palace, 
and there is a man who writes his name and is called 

J Mrs. Walter H. Page is the daughter of a Scotchman from Ayrshire. 



144 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"The Macintosh of Macintosh," and that's a prouder 
title than the King's. A little handful of sheep-stealing 
bandits got themselves immortalized and heroized, and 
they are now all Presbyterian elders. They got their 
church "established" in Scotland, and when the King 
comes to Scotland, by Jehoshaphat! he is obliged to 
become a Presbyterian. Yet your Kentucky feudist — 
poor devil — he comes too late. The Scotchman has pre- 
empted that particular field of glory. And all such com- 
parisons make your mother fighting mad. . . . 

Affectionately, \y jj p 

To the President 

American Embassy, London. 
October 25, 1913. 
Dear Mr. President: 

I am moved once in a while to write you privately, not 
about any specific piece of public business, but only, if I 
can, to transmit something of the atmosphere of the 
work here. And, since this is meant quite as much for 
your amusement as for any information it may carry, 
don't read it "in office hours." 

The future of the world belongs to us. A man needs 
to live here, with two economic eyes in his head, a very 
little time to become very sure of this. Everybody will 
see it presently. These English are spending their 
capital, and it is their capital that continues to give them 
their vast power. Now what are we going to do with 
the leadership of the world presently when it clearly falls 
into our hands? 1 And how can we use the English for the 
highest uses of democracy? 

2 The astonishing thing about Page's comment on the leadership of the United 
States — if it would only take this leadership — is that these letters were written in 
1913, a year before the outbreak of the war, and eight years before the Washing- 
ton Disarmament Conference of 1921-22. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 145 

You see their fear of an on-sweeping democracy in 
their social treatment of party opponents. A Tory lady 
told me with tears that she could no longer invite her 
Liberal friends to her house: "I have lost them — they 
are robbing us, you know." I made the mistake of say- 
ing a word in praise of Sir Edward Grey to a duke. "Yes, 
yes, no doubt an able man ; but you must understand, sir, 
that I don't train with that gang." A bishop explained 
to me at elaborate length why the very monarchy is 
doomed unless something befalls Lloyd George and his 
programme. Every dinner party is made up with 
strict reference to the party politics of the guests. Some- 
times you imagine you see something like civil war; and 
money is flowing out of the Kingdom into Canada in the 
greatest volume ever known and I am told that a number 
of old families are investing their fortunes in African 
lands. 

These and such things are, of course, mere chips which 
show the direction the slow stream runs. The great 
economic tide of the century flows our way. We shall 
have the big world questions to decide presently. Then 
we shall need world policies ; and it will be these old-time 
world leaders that we shall then have to work with, more 
closely than now. 

The English make a sharp distinction between the 
American people and the American Government — a dis- 
tinction that they are conscious of and that they them- 
selves talk about. They do not think of our people as 
foreigners. I have a club book on my table wherein the 
members are classified as British, Colonial, American, 
and Foreign — quite unconsciously. But they do think 
of our Government as foreign, and as a frontier sort of 
thing without good manners or good faith. This dis- 
tinction presents the big task of implanting here a real 



146 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

respect for our Government. People often think to 
compliment the American Ambassador by assuming that 
he is better than his Government and must at times be 
ashamed of it. Of course the Government never does 
this — never — but persons in unofficial life; and I have 
sometimes hit some hard blows under this condescending 
provocation. This is the one experience that I have 
found irritating. They commiserate me on having a 
Government that will not provide an Ambassador's resi- 
dence — from the King to my servants. They talk about 
American lynchings. Even the Spectator, in an early 
editorial about you, said that we should now see what 
stuff there is in the new President by watching whether 
you would stop lynchings. They forever quote Bryce 
on the badness of our municipal government. They 
pretend to think that the impeachment of governors is 
common and ought to be commoner. One delicious 
M. P. asked me: "Now, since the Governor of New 
York is impeached, who becomes Vice-President?" 1 
Ignorance, unfathomable ignorance, is at the bottom of 
much of it; if the Town Treasurer of Yuba Dam gets a 
$100 "rake off" on a paving contract, our city govern- 
ment is a failure. 

I am about to conclude that our yellow press does us 
more harm abroad than at home, and many of the Ameri- 
can correspondents of the English papers send exactly 
the wrong news. The whole governing class of England 
has a possibly exaggerated admiration for the American 
people and something very like contempt for the American 
Government. 



J Just what, this critical Briton had in mind, in thinking that the removal of a 
New York governor created a vacaney in the Vice-Presidency, is not clear. Pos- 
sihly, however, he had a cloudy recollection of the fact that Theodore Roosevelt, 
after serving as Governor of New York State, became Vice-President, and may 
have concluded from this that the two offices were held by the same man. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 147 

If I make it out right two causes (in addition to their 
ignorance) of their dislike of our Government are (1) its 
lack of manners in the past, and (2) its indiscretions of 
publicity about foreign affairs. We ostentatiously stand 
aloof from their polite ways and courteous manners in 
many of the every-day, ordinary, unimportant dealings 
with them — aloof from the common amenities of long- 
organized political life. . . . 

Not one of these things is worth mentioning or re- 
membering. But generations of them have caused our 
Government to be regarded as thoughtless of the fine 
little acts of life — as rude. The more I find out about 
diplomatic customs and the more I hear of the little-big 
troubles of others, the more need I find to be careful 
about details of courtesy. 

Thus we are making as brave a show as becomes us. 
I no longer dismiss a princess after supper or keep the 
whole diplomatic corps waiting while I talk to an inter- 
esting man till the Master of Ceremonies comes up and 
whispers: "Your Excellency, I think they are waiting for 
you to move." But I am both young and green, and 
even these folk forgive much to green youth, if it show a 
willingness to learn. 

But our Government, though green, isn't young enough 
to plead its youth. It is time that it, too, were learning 
Old World manners in dealing with Old World peoples. 
I do not know whether we need a Bureau, or a Major- 
Domo, or a Master of Ceremonies at Washington, but we 
need somebody to prompt us to act as polite as we really 
are, somebody to think of those gentler touches that we 
naturally forget. Some other governments have such 
officers — perhaps all. The Japanese, for instance, are 
newcomers in world politics. But this Japanese Am- 
bassador and his wife here never miss a trick; and they 



148 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

come across the square and ask us how to do it! All 
the other governments, too, play the game of small 
courtesies to perfection — the French, of course, and the 
Spanish and — even the old Turk. 

Another reason for the English distrust of our Govern- 
ment is its indiscretions in the past of this sort: one of 
our Ministers to Germany, you will recall, was obliged 
to resign because the Government at Washington inad- 
vertently published one of his confidential despatches; 
Griscom saved his neck only by the skin, when he was in 
Japan, for a similar reason. These things travel all 
round the world from one chancery to another and all 
governments know them. Yesterday somebody in Wash- 
ington talked about my despatch summarizing my talk 
with Sir Edward Grey about Mexico, and it appeared in 
the papers here this morning that Sir Edward had told 
me that the big business interests were pushing him hard. 
This I sent as only my inference. I had at once to dis- 
claim it. This leaves in his mind a doubt about our care 
for secrecy. They have monstrous big doors and silent 
men in Downing Street; and, I am told, a stenographer 
sits behind a big screen in Sir Edward's room while an 
Ambassador talks! * I wonder if my comments on certain 
poets, which I have poured forth there to provoke his, 
are preserved in the archives of the British Empire. The 
British Empire is surely very welcome to them. I have 
twice found it useful, by the way, to bring up Wordsworth 

x For years this idea of the stenographer back of a screen in the Foreign Office has 
been abroad, but it is entirely unfounded. Several years ago a Foreign Secretary, 
perhaps Lord Salisbury, put a screen behind his desk to keep off the draughts and 
from this precaution the myth arose that it shielded a stenographer who took a 
complete record of ambassadorial conversations. After an ambassador leaves, the 
Foreign Secretary, however, does write out the important points in the conversation. 
Copies are made and printed, and sent to the King, the Prime Minister, the 
British Ambassador in the country to which the interview relates, and occasion- 
ally to others. All these records are, of course, carefully preserved in the archives 
of the Foreign Office. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 149 

when he has begun to talk about Panama tolls. Then 
your friend Canon Rawnsley 1 has, without suspecting it, 
done good service in diplomacy. 

The newspaper men here, by the way, both English 
and American, are disposed to treat us fairly and to be 
helpful. The London Times, on most subjects, is very 
friendly, and I find its editors worth cultivating for their 
own sakes and because of their position. It is still the 
greatest English newspaper. Its general friendliness to 
the United States, by the way, has started a rumour that 
I hear once in a while — that it is really owned by Ameri- 
cans — nonsense yet awhile. To the fairness and help- 
fulness of the newspaper men there are one or two excep- 
tions, for instance, a certain sneaking whelp who writes for 
several papers. He went to the Navy League dinner 
last night at which I made a little speech. When I sat 
down, he remarked to his neighbour, with a yawn, "Well, 
nothing in it for me. The Ambassador, I am afraid, said 
nothing for which I can demand his recall." They, of 
course, don't care thrippence about me ; it's you they hope 
to annoy. 

Then after beating them at their own game of daily 
little courtesies, we want a fight with them — a good stiff 
fight about something wherein we are dead right, to re- 
mind them sharply that we have sand in our craw. 2 I 
pray every night for such a fight; for they like fighting 
men. Then they'll respect our Government as they al- 
ready respect us — if we are dead right. 

But I've little hope for a fight of the right kind with 
Sir Edward Grey. He is the very reverse of insolent — 

x The Rev. Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, the well-known Vicar of Crosth- 
waite, Keswick, poet and student of Wordsworth. President Wilson, who used 
occasionally to spend his vacation in the Lake region, was one of his friends. 

2 It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the Ambassador was thinking only of * 
diplomatic "fight." 



150 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

fair, frank, sympathetic, and he has so clear an under- 
standing of our real character that he'd yield anything 
that his party and Parliament would permit. He'd make 
a good American with the use of very little sandpaper. 
Of course I know him better than I know any other 
member of the Cabinet, but he seems to me the best- 
balanced man of them all. 

I can assure you emphatically that the tariff act 1 does 
command their respect and is already having an amazing 
influence on their opinion of our Government. Lord 
Mersey, a distinguished law lord and a fine old fellow of 
the very best type of Englishman, said to me last Sunday, 
"I wish to thank you for stopping half-way in reducing 
your tariff; that will only half ruin us." A lady of a 
political family (Liberal) next whom I sat at dinner the 
other night (and these women know their politics as no 
class of women among us do) said: "Tell me something 
about your great President. We hadn't heard much 
about him nor felt his hand till your tariff bill passed. 
He seems to have real power in the Government. You 
know we do not always know who has power in your 
Government." Lord Grey, the one-time Governor- 
General of Canada, stopped looking at the royal wedding 
presents the other evening long enough to say: "The 
United States Government is waking up — waking up." 

I sum up these atmospheric conditions — I do not pre- 
sume to call them by so definite a name as recommenda- 
tions : 

We are in the international game — not in its Old World 
intrigues and burdens and sorrows and melancholy, but 
in the inevitable way to leadership and to cheerful mastery 



^The Underwood Bill revising the tariff "downward" became a law October, 
1913. It was one of the first important measures of the new Wilson Adminis' 
tratioa. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 151 

in the future; and everybody knows that we arc in it 
but us. It is a sheer blind habit that causes us to con- 
tinue to try to think of ourselves as aloof. They think in 
terms of races here, and we are of their race, and we shall 
become the strongest and the happiest branch of it. 

While we play the game with them, we shall play it 
better by playing it under their long-wrought-out rules 
of courtesy in everyday affairs. 

We shall play it better, too, if our Government play it 
quietly — except when the subject demands publicity. 
I have heard that in past years the foreign representatives 
of our Government have reported too few things and 
much too meagrely. I have heard since I have been 
here that these representatives become timid because 
Washington has for many a year conducted its foreign 
business too much in the newspapers; and the foreign 
governments themselves are always afraid of this. 

Meantime I hardly need tell you of my appreciation of 
such a chance to make so interesting a study and to 
enjoy so greatly the most interesting experience, I really 
believe, in the whole world. I only hope that in time I 
may see how to shape the constant progression of inci- 
dents into a constructive course of events ; for we are soon 
coming into a time of big changes. 

Most heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

To David F. Houston 1 

American Embassy, London [undated]. 
Dear Houston: 

You're doing the bigger job : as the world now is, there 
is no other job so big as yours or so well worth doing; but 
I'm having more fun. I'm having more fun than any- 

^ecretary of Agriculture in President Wilson's Cabinet. 



152 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

body else anywhere. It's a large window you look 
through on the big world — here in London; and, while I 
am for the moment missing many of the things that I've 
most cared about hitherto (such as working for the 
countryman, guessing at American public opinion, coffee 
that's fit to drink, corn bread, sunshine, and old faces) 
big new things come on the horizon. Yet a man's per- 
sonal experiences are nothing in comparison with the 
large job that our Government has to do in its Foreign 
Relations. I'm beginning to begin to see what it is. 
The American people are taken most seriously here. I'm 
sometimes almost afraid of the respect and even awe in 
which they hold us. But the American Government is a 
mere joke to them. They don't even believe that we 
ourselves believe in it. We've had no foreign policy, 
no continuity of plan, no matured scheme, no settled way 
of doing things and we seem afraid of Irishmen or Ger- 
mans or some "element" when a chance for real action 
comes. I'm writing to the President about this and tell- 
ing him stories to show how it works. 

We needn't talk any longer about keeping aloof. If 
Cecil Spring Rice would tell you the complaints he has 
already presented and if you saw the work that goes on 
here — more than in all the other posts in Europe — you'd 
see that all the old talk about keeping aloof is Missouri 
buncombe. We're very much "in," but not frankly in. 

I wish you'd keep your eye on these things in cabinet 
meetings. The English and the whole English world are 
ours, if we have the courtesy to take them — fleet and trade 
and all; and we go on pretending we are afraid of "en- 
tangling alliances." What about disentangling alliances? 

We're in the game. There's no use in letting a few 
wild Irish or cocky Germans scare us. We need courtesy 
and frankness, and the destinies of the world will be in 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 153 

our hands. They'll fall there anyhow after we are dead; 
but I wish to see them come, while my own eyes last. 
Don't you? 

Heartily yours, 

W. H. P. 

To Robert N. Page 1 

London, December 22, 1913. 
My dear Bob: 

. . . We have a splendid, big old house — not in any 
way pretentious — a commonplace house in fact for fashion- 
able London and the least showy and costly of the Em- 
bassies. But it does very well — it's big and elegantly 
plain and dignified. We have fifteen servants in the house. 
They do just about what seven good ones would do in the 
United States, but they do it a great deal better. They 
pretty nearly run themselves and the place. The servant 
question is admirably solved here. They divide the work 
according to a fixed and unchangeable system and they 
do it remarkably well — in their own slow English way. 
We simply let them alone, unless something important 
happens to go wrong. Katharine simply tells the butler 
that we'll have twenty-four people to dinner to-morrow 
night and gives him a fist of them. As they come in, the 
men at the door address every one correctly — Your 
Lordship or Your Grace, or what not. When they are 
all in, the butler comes to the reception room and an- 
nounces dinner. We do the rest. As every man goes 
out, the butler asks him if he '11 have a glass of water or of 
grog or a cigar ; he calls his car, puts him in it, and that 's 
the end of it. Bully good plan. But in the United 
States that butler, whose wages are less than the ram- 
shackle nigger I had at Garden City to keep the place 

*Of Aberdeen, North Carolina, the Ambassador's brother. 



154 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

neat, would have a business of his own. But here he is a 
sort of duke downstairs. He sits at the head of the ser- 
vants' table and orders them around and that's worth 
more than money to an Old World servile mind. 

The "season" doesn't begin till the King comes back 
and Parliament opens, in February. But every kind of 
club and patriotic and educational organization is giving 
its annual dinner now. I've been going to them and 
making after-dinner speeches to get acquainted and also 
to preach into them some ^little knowledge of American 
ways and ideals. They are very nice — very. You could 
not suggest or imagine any improvement in their kindness 
and courtesy. They do all these things in some ways 
better than we. They have more courtesy. They make 
far shorter speeches. But they do them all too much 
alike. Still they do get much pleasure out of them and 
much instruction too. 

Then we are invited to twice as many private dinners 
and luncheons as we can attend. At these, these people are 
at their best. But it is yet quite confusing. A sea of 
friendly faces greets you — you can 't remember the names. 
Nobody ever introduces anybody to anybody; and if by 
accident anybody ever tries, he simply says— " Uh-o-oh- 
Lord Xzwwxkmpt." You couldn't understand it if you 
had to be hanged. 

But we are untangling some of this confusion and com- 
ing to make very real and very charming friends. 

About December 20, everybody who is anybody leaves 
London. They go to their country places for about a 
fortnight or they go to the continent. Almost everything 
stops. It has been the only dull time at the Embassy that 
I 've had. Nothing is going on now. But up to two days 
ago, it kept a furious gait. I'm glad of a little rest. 

Dealing with the Government doesn't present the 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 155 

difficulties that I feared. Sir Edward Grey is in the main 
responsible for the ease with which it is done. He is a 
frank and fair and truthful man. You will find him the 
day after to-morrow precisely where you left him the day 
before yesterday. We get along very well indeed. I 
think we should get along if we had harder tasks one with 
the other. And the English people are even more friendly 
than the Government. You have no idea of their respect 
for the American Nation. Of course there is much ig- 
norance, sometimes of a surprising sort. Very many 
people, for instance, think that all the Americans are rich. 
A lady told me the other night how poor she is — she is 
worth only $1,250,000 — "nothing like all you Americans." 
She was quite sincere. In fact the wealth of the world 
(and the poverty, too) is centred here in an amazing way. 
You can't easily take it in — how rich or how many rich 
English families there are. They have had wealth for 
generation after generation, and the surprising thing is, 
they take care of it. They spend enormously — seldom 
ostentatiously — but they are more than likely to add 
some of their income every year to their principal. They 
have better houses in town and in the country than I had 
imagined. They spend vast fortunes in making homes 
in which they expect to five forever — generation after 
generation. 

To an American democrat the sad thing is the servile 
class. Before the law the chimney sweep and the peer 
have exactly the same standing. They have worked 
that out with absolute justice. But there it stops. The 
serving class is what we should call abject. It does not 
occur to them that they might ever become — or that 
their descendants might ever become — ladies and gentle- 
men. 

The "courts" are a very fine sight. The diplomatic 



156 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ladies sit on a row of seats on one side the throne room, 
the Duchesses on a row opposite. The King and Queen 
sit on a raised platform with the royal family. The 
Ambassadors come in first and bow and the King shakes 
hands with them. Then come the forty or more Min- 
isters — no shake for them. In front of the King are 
a few officers in gaudy uniform, some Indians of high 
rank (from India) and the court officials are all round 
about, with pages who hold up the Queen's train. When- 
ever the Queen and King move, two court officials back 
before them, one carrying a gold stick and the other a 
silver stick. 

The ladies to be presented come along. They curtsy 
to the King, then to the Queen, and disappear in the rooms 
farther on. The Ambassadors (all in gaudy uniforms but 
me) stand near the throne— stand through the whole per- 
formance. One night after an hour or tAvo of ladies com- 
ing along and curtsying and disappearing, I whispered to 
the Spanish Ambassador, "There must be five hundred 
of these ladies." "U-m," said he, as he shifted his weight 
to the other foot, "I'm sure there are five thousand!" 
When they've all been presented, the King and Queen go 
into a room where a stand-up supper is served. The royalty 
and the diplomatic folks go into that room, too ; and their 
Majesties walk around and talk with whom they please. 
Into another and bigger room everybody else goes and gets 
supper. Then we all flock back to the throne room; and 
preceded by the backing courtiers, their Majesties come 
out into the floor and bow to the Ambassadors, then to 
the Duchesses, then to the general diplomatic group and 
they go out. The show is ended. We come downstairs 
and wait an hour for our car and come home about mid- 
night. The uniforms on the men and the jewels on the 
ladies (by the ton) and their trains — all this makes a very 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 157 

brilliant spectacle. The American Ambassador and his 
Secretaries and the Swiss and the Portuguese are the only 
ones dressed in citizens" clothes. 

At a levee, the King receives only gentlemen. Here 
they come in all kinds of uniforms. If you are not en- 
titled to wear a uniform, you have a dark suit, knee 
breeches, and a funny little tin sword. I'm going to 
adopt the knee breeches part of it for good when I go 
home— golf breeches in the day time and knee breeches 
at night. You've no idea how nice and comfortable 
they are — though it is a devil of a lot of trouble to put 
'em on. Of course every sort of man here but the 
Americans wears some sort of decorations around his neck 
or on his stomach, at these functions. For my part, I 
like it — here. The women sparkle with diamonds, the men 
strut; the King is a fine man with a big bass voice and 
he talks very well and is most agreeable ; the Queen is very 
gracious; the royal ladies (Queen Victoria's daughters, 
chiefly) are nice; you see all the big Generals and all 
the big Admirals and the great folk of every sort — fine 
show. 

You 've no idea how much time and money they spend 
on shooting. The King has been shooting most of the 
time for three months. He 's said to be a very good shot. 
He has sent me, on different occasions, grouse, a haunch 
of venison, and pheasants. 

But except on these occasions, you never think about 
the King. The people go about their business as if he 
didn 't exist, of course. They begin work much later than 
we do. You '11 not find any of the shops open till about 
ten o'clock. The sun doesn 't shine except once in a Avhile 
and you don't know it's daylight till about ten. You 
know the House of Commons has night sessions always. 
Nobody is in the Government offices, except clerks and 



158 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

secretaries, till the afternoon. We dine at eight, and, 
when we have a big dinner, at eight thirty. 

I like these people (most of 'em) immensely. They 
are very genuine and frank, good fighters and folic of 
our own sort — after you come to know them. At first 
they have no manners and don't know what to do. 
But they warm up to you later. They have abundant 
wit, but much less humour than we. And they know how 
to live. 

Except that part of life which is ministered to in 
mechanical ways, they resist conveniences. They don't 
really like bathrooms yet. They prefer great tin tubs, 
and they use bowls and pitchers when a bathroom is next 
door. The telephone — Lord deliver us! — I 've given it up. 
They know nothing about it. (It is a government con- 
cern, but so are the telegraph and the post office, and they 
are remarkably good and swift.) You can't buy a news- 
paper on the street, except in the afternoon. Cigar-stores 
are as scarce as hen's teeth. Barber-shops are all "hair- 
dressers" — dirty and wretched beyond description. You 
can't get a decent pen; their newspapers are as big as table- 
cloths. In this aquarium in which we live (it rains every 
day) they have only three vegetables and two of them are 
cabbages. They grow all kinds of fruit in hothouses, and 
(I can't explain this) good land in admirable cultivation 
thirty miles from London sells for about half what good 
corn land in Iowa brings. Lloyd George has scared the 
land-owners to death. 

Party politics runs so high that many Tories will not 
invite Liberals to dinner. They are almost at the point 
of civil war. I asked the Prime Minister the other day 
how he was going to prevent war. He didn't give any 
clear answer. During this recess of Parliament, though 
there's no election pending, all the Cabinet are all the 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 159 

time going about making speeches on Ireland. They talk 
to me about it. 

"What would you do?" 

"Send 'em all to the United States," say I. 

"No, no." 

They have had the Irish question three hundred years 
and they wouldn't be happy without it. One old Tory 
talked me deaf abusing the Liberal Government. 

"You do this way in the United States — hate one an- 
other, don't you?" 

"No," said I, "we live like angels in perfect harmony 
except a few weeks before election." 

"The devil you do! You don't hate one another? 
What do you do for enemies? I couldn't get along with- 
out enemies to swear at." 

If you think it's all play, you fool yourself; I mean this 
job. There's no end of the work. It consists of these 
parts: Receiving people for two hours every day, some on 
some sort of business, some merely "to pay respects," 
attending to a large (and exceedingly miscellaneous) 
mail; going to the Foreign Office on all sorts of errands; 
looking up the oddest assortment of information that 
you ever heard of; making reports to Washington on all 
sorts of things; then the so-called social duties — giving 
dinners, receptions, etc., and attending them. I hear the 
most important news I get at so-called social functions. 
Then the court functions; and the meetings and speeches! 
The American Ambassador must go all over England and 
explain every American thing. You 'd never recover from 
the shock if you could hear me speaking about Education, 
Agriculture, the observance of Christmas, the Navy, the 
Anglo-Saxon, Mexico, the Monroe Doctrine, Co-educa- 
tion, Woman Suffrage, Medicine, Law, Radio-Activity, 
Flying, the Supreme Court, the President as a Man of 



160 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

letters, Hookworm, the Negro — just get down the Ency- 
clopaedia and continue the list. I've done this every 
week-night for a month, hand running, with a few after- 
noon performances thrown in! I have missed only one 
engagement in these seven months ; and that was merely 
a private luncheon. I have been late only once. I 
have the best chauffeur in the world — he deserves credit 
for much of that. Of course, I don't get time to read 
a book. In fact, I can't keep up with what goes on at 
home. To read a newspaper eight or ten days old, when 
they come in bundles of three or four — is impossible. 
What isn't telegraphed here, I miss; and that means I 
miss most things. 

I forgot, there are a dozen other kinds of activities, such 
as American marriages, which they always want the Am- 
bassador to attend ; getting them out of jail, when they 
are jugged (I have an American woman on my hands now, 
whose four children come to see me every day); looking 
after the American insane; helping Americans move the 
bones of their ancestors ; interpreting the income-tax law ; 
receiving medals for Americans; hearing American fid- 
dlers, pianists, players ; sitting for American sculptors and 
photographers; sending telegrams for property owners in 
Mexico; reading letters from thousands of people who 
have shares in estates here ; writing letters of introduction ; 
getting tickets to the House Gallery; getting seats in the 
Abbey; going with people to this and that and t'other; 
getting tickets to the races, the art-galleries, the House of 
Lords; answering fool questions about the United States 
put by Englishmen. With a military attache, a naval 
attache, three secretaries, a private secretary, two auto' 
mobiles, Alice's private secretary, a veterinarian, an im- 
migration agent, consuls everywhere, a despatch agent, 
lawyers, doctors, messengers — they keep us all busy. A 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 161 

woman turned up dying the other day. I sent for a big 
doctor. She got well. As if that wasn't enough, both 
the woman and the doctor had to come and thank me 
(fifteen minutes each). Then each wrote a letter! Then 
there are people who are going to have a Fair here ; others 
who have a Fair coming on at San Francisco; others at 
San Diego; secretaries and returning and outgoing diplo- 
mats come and go (lunch for 'em all); niggers come up 
from Liberia; Rhodes Scholars from Oxford; Presidential 
candidates to succeed Huerta; people who present books; 
women who wish to go to court; Jews who are excited 
about Rumania; passports, passports to sign; peace com- 
mittees about the hundred years of peace; opera singers 
going to the United States ; artists who have painted some 
American's portrait — don't you see? I haven't said a 
word about reporters and editors: the city's full of them. 
A Happy New Year. 

Affectionately, Wat 

To Ralph W. Page 1 

London, December 23, 1913. 
Dear Ralph: 

. . . The game is pretty much as it has been. I 
can 't think of any new kinds of things to write you. The 
old kinds simply multiply and repeat themselves. But we 
are beginning now really to become acquainted, and some 
life friendships will grow out of our experience. And 
there's no doubt about its being instructive. I get 
glimpses of the way in which great governments deal with 
one another, in ways that our isolated, and, therefore, 
safe government seldom has any experience of. For 
instance, one of the Lords of the Admiralty told me the 
other night that he never gets out of telephone reach of 

! Of Pinehurst, North Carolina, the Anihassador's eldest son. 



162 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the office — not even half an hour. "The Admiralty,"' 
said he, "never sleeps." He has a telephone by his bed 
which he can hear at any moment in the night. I don't 
believe that they really expect the German fleet to attack 
them any day or night. But they would not be at all 
surprised if it did so to-night. They talk all the time of 
the danger and of the probability of war; they don't expect 
it; but most wars have come without warning, and they 
are all the time prepared to begin a fight in an hour. 

They talk about how much Germany must do to 
strengthen her frontier against Russia and her new r 
frontier on the Balkan States. They now have these 
problems in hand and therefore they are for the moment 
not likely to provoke a fight. But they might. 

It is all pitiful to see them thinking forever about danger 
and defense. The controversy about training boys for the 
army never ends. We don't know in the United States 
what we owe to the Atlantic Ocean — safe separation from 
all these troubles. . . . 

But I've often asked both Englishmen and Americans 
in a dining room where there were many men of each 
country, whether they could look over the company and 
say which were English and which were Americans. 
Nobody can tell till— they begin to talk. 

The ignorance of the two countries, each of the other, 
is beyond all belief. A friend of Kitty's— an American- 
received a letter from the United States yesterday. The 
maid noticed the stamp, which had the head of George 
Washington on it. Every stamp in this kingdom bears the 
image of King George. She asked if the American stamp 
had on it the head of the American Ambassador! I've 
known far wiser people to ask far more foolish questions. 

Affectionately, 

W. H. P. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 163 

To Mrs. Ralph W. Page 

London, Christmas-is-coming, 1913. 
My dear Leila: 

. . . Her work [Mrs. Walter H. Page's] is all the 
work of going and receiving and — of reading. She reads 
incessantly and enormously; and, when she gets tired, 
she goes to bed. That's all there is about it. Lord! 
I wish I could. But, when I get tired, I have to go and 
make another speech. They think the American Am- 
bassador has omniscience for a foible and oratory as a 
pastime. 

In some ways my duties are very instructive. We get 
different points of view on many things, some better than 
we had before had, some worse. For instance, life is 
pretty well laid out here in water-tight compartments; 
and you can't let a stream in from one to another with- 
out danger of sinking the ship. Four reporters have been 
here to-day because Mr. and Mrs. Sayre 1 arrived this 
morning. Every one of 'em asked the same question, 
"Who met them at the station?" That's the chief thing 
they wished to know. When I said "I did" — that fixed 
the whole thing on the highest peg of dignity. They 
could classify the whole proceeding properly, and they 
went off happy. Again: You've got to go in to din- 
ner in the exact order prescribed by the constitution; 
and, if you avoid that or confuse that, you'll never be able 
to live it down. And so about Government, Literature, 
Art — everything. Don't you forget your water-tight 
compartments. If you do, you are gone ! They have the 
same toasts at every public dinner. One is to "the 
guests." Now you needn't say a word about the guests 

l Mr. and Mrs. Francis B. Sayre, son-in-law and daughter of President Wilson, 
at that time on their honeymoon trip in Europe. 



164 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

when you respond. But they've been having toasts to 
the guests since the time of James I and they can't change 
it. They had me speak to "the guests" at a club last 
night, when they wanted me to talk about Mexico ! The 
winter has come — the winter months at least. But they 
have had no cold weather — not so cold as you have in 
Pinehurst. But the sun has gone out to sea — clean gone. 
We never see it. A damp darkness (semi-darkness at 
least) hangs over us all the time. But we manage to feel 
our way about. 

A poor photograph goes to you for Xmas — a poor thing 
enough surely. But you get Uncle Bob 1 busy on the job 
of paying for an Ambassador's house. Then we'll bring 
Christmas presents home for you. What a game we are 
playing, we poor folks here, along with Ambassadors 
whose governments pay them four times what ours pays. 
But we don't give the game away, you bet! We throw 
the bluff with a fine, straight poker face. 

Affectionately, 

W. H. P. 

To Frank N. Doubleday and Others 

London, Sunday, December 28, 1913. 
My dear Comrades: 

I was never one of those abnormal creatures who got 
Christmas all ready by the Fourth of July. The true 
spirit of the celebration has just now begun to work on me 
— three days late. In this respect the spirit is very like 
Christmas plum-pudding. Moreover, we 've just got the 
patriotic fervour flowing at high tide this morning. This 
is the President's birthday. We 've put up the Stars and 



1 Mr. Robert N. Page, the Ambassador's brother, was at this time a Congress- 
man from North Carolina. 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 165 

Stripes on the roof; and half an hour ago the King's Mas- 
ter of Ceremonies drove up in a huge motor car and, being 
shown into my presence in the state drawing room, held 
his hat in his hand and (said he) : 

"Your Excellency: I am commanded by the King to 
express to you His Majesty's congratulations on the 
birthday of the President, to wish him a successful ad- 
ministration and good health and long life and to con- 
vey His Majesty's greetings to Your Excellency: and His 
Majesty commands me to express the hope that you will 
acquaint the President with His Majesty's good wishes." 

Whereto I made just as pretty a little speech as your 
'umble sarvant could. Then we sat down, I called in 
Mrs. Page and my secretary and we talked like human 
beings. 

Having worked like the devil, upon whom, I imagine, 
at this bibulous season many heavy duties fall— having thus 
toiled for two months — the international docket is clean, 
I 've got done a round of twenty-five speeches (0 Lord !) 
I've slept three whole nights, I 've made my dinner-calls— 
you see I 'm feeling pretty well, in this first period of quiet 
life I've yet found in this Babylon. Praise Heaven) 
they go off for Christmas. Everything's shut up tight. 
The streets of London are as lonely and as quiet as the 
road to Oyster Bay while the Oyster is in South America. 
It's about as mild here as with you in October and as 
damp as Sheepshead's Bay in an autumn storm. But 
such people as you meet complain of the c-o-l-d — the 
c-o-l-d; and they run into their heatless houses and put 
on extra waistcoats and furs and throw shawls over their 
knees and curse Lloyd George and enjoy themselves. 
They are a great people — even without mint juleps in 
summer or eggnog in winter; and I like them. The old 
gouty Lords curse the Americans for the decline of drink- 



166 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ing. And you can't live among them without laughing 
yourself to death and admiring them, too. It's a fine race 
to be sprung from. 

All this field of international relations — you fellows 
regard it as a bore. So it used to be before my entrance 
into the game! But it's everlastingly interesting. Just 
to give him a shock, I asked the Foreign Secretary the 
other day what difference it would make if the Foreign Of- 
fices were all to go out of business and all the Ambassadors 
were to be hanged. He thought a minute and said: 
"Suppose war kept on in the Balkans, the Russians killed 
all their Jews, Germany took Holland and sent an air-fleet 
over London, the Japanese landed in California, the Eng- 
lish took all the oil-wells in Central and South America 
and " 

"Good Lord!" said I, "do you and I prevent all these 
calamities? If so, we don't get half the credit that is due 
us — do we?" 

You could ask the same question about any group or 
profession of men in the world; and on a scratch, I imagine 
that any of them would be missed less than they think. 
But the realness and the bigness of the job here in London 
is simply oppressive. We don't even know what it is 
in the United States and, of course, we don't go about 
doing it right. If we did, we shouldn't pick up a green 
fellow on the plain of Long Island and send him here; 
we 'd train the most capable male babies we have from the 
cradle. But this leads a long way. 

As I look back over these six or seven months, from 
the pause that has come this week, I'm bound to say 
(being frank, not to say vain) that I had the good fortune 
to do one piece of work that was worth the effort and 
worth coming to do — about that infernal Mexican situ- 
ation. An abler man would have done it better; but, 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 167 

as it was, I did it; and I have a most appreciative letter 
about it from the President. 

By thunder, he's doing his job, isn't he? Whether 
you like the job or not, you've got to grant that. When 
I first came over here, I found a mild curiosity about Wil- 
son — only mild. But now they sit up and listen and ask 
most eager questions. He has pressed his personality 
most strongly on the governing class here. 

Yours heartily, 

W. H. P. 

To the President 

American Embassy, London 

[May 11, 1914,] 
Dear Mr. President: 

The King of Denmark (I always think of Hamlet) 
having come to make his royal kinsman of these Isles a 
visit, his royal kinsman to-night gave a state dinner at 
the palace whereto the Ambassadors of the eight Great 
Powers were, of course, invited. Now I don't know how 
other kings do, but I 'm willing to swear by King George 
for a job of this sort. The splendour of the thing is truly 
regal and the friendliness of it very real and human; 
and the company most uncommon. Of course the Am- 
bassadors and their wives were there, the chief rulers of 
the Empire and men and women of distinction and most of 
the royal family. The dinner and the music and the plate 
and the decorations and the jewels and the uniforms — all 
these were regal; but there is a human touch about it that 
seems almost democratic. 

All for His Majesty of Denmark, a country with fewer 
people and less wealth than New Jersey. This whole 
royal game is most interesting. Lloyd George and H. H. 
Asquith and John Morley were there, all in white knee 



168 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

breeches of silk, and swords and most gaudy coats — these 
that are the radicals of the Kingdom, in literature and in 
action. Veterans of Indian and South African wars stood 
on either side of every door and of every stairway, dressed 
as Sir Walter Raleigh dressed, like so many statues, never 
blinking an eye. Every person in the company is printed, 
in all the papers, with every title he bears. Crowds lined 
the streets in front of the palace to see the carriages go 
in and to guess who was in each. To-morrow the Diplo- 
matic Corps calls on King Christian and to-morrow night 
King George commands us to attend the opera as his 
guests. 

Whether it 's the court, or the honours and the orders and 
all the social and imperial spoils, that keep the illusion up, 
or whether it is the Old World inability to change any- 
thing, you can't ever quite decide. In Defoe's time they 
put pots of herbs on the desks of every court in London 
to keep the plague off. The pots of herbs are yet put 
on every desk in every court room in London. Several 
centuries ago somebody tried to break into the Bank of 
England. A special guard was detached — a little com- 
pany of soldiers — to stand watch at night. The bank has 
twice been moved and is now housed in a building that 
would stand a siege; but that guard, in the same uniform 
goes on duty every night. Nothing is ever abolished, 
nothing ever changed. On the anniversary of King 
Charles's execution, his statue in Trafalgar Square is 
covered with flowers. Every month, too, new books 
appear about the mistresses of old kings — as if they, too, 
were of more than usual interest : I mean serious, histori- 
cal books. From the King 's palace to the humblest house 
I've been in, there are pictures of kings and queens. In 
every house, too (to show how nothing ever changes), the 
towels are folded in the same peculiar way. In every 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 169 

grate in the kingdom the coal fire is laid in precisely the 
same way. There is not a salesman in any shop on Pic- 
cadilly who does not, in the season, wear a long-tail coat. 
Everywhere they say a second grace at dinner — not at the 
end — but before the dessert, because two hundred years 
ago they dared not wait longer lest the parson be under the 
table : the grace is said to-day before dessert ! I tried three 
months to persuade my "Boots" to leave off blacking the 
soles of my shoes under the instep. He simply couldn't 
do it. Every "Boots" in the Kingdom does it. A man 
of learning had an article in an afternoon paper a few 
weeks ago which began thus: "It is now universally 
conceded by the French and the Americans that the 
decimal system is a failure," and he went on to concoct 
a scheme for our money that would be more "rational" 
and "historical." In this hot debate about Ulster a fre- 
quent phrase used is, "Let us see if we can't find the right 
formula to solve the difficulty"; their whole fives are 
formulas. Now may not all the honours and garters and 
thistles and 0. M.'s and K. C. B.'s and all manner of gaudy 
sinecures be secure, only because they can't abolish any- 
thing? My servants sit at table in a certain order, and 
Mrs. Page 's maid wouldn 't yield her precedence to a mere 
housemaid for any mortal consideration — any more than a 
royal person of a certain rank would yield to one of a 
lower rank. A real democracy is as far off as doomsday. 
So you argue, till you remember that it is these same 
people who made human liberty possible — to a degree — 
and till you sit day after day and hear them in the House 
of Commons, mercilessly pounding one another. Then 
you are puzzled. Do they keep all these outworn things 
because they are incapable of changing anything, or do 
these outworn burdens keep them from becoming able to 
change anything? I daresay it works both ways. Every 



170 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

venerable ruin, every outworn custom, makes the King 
more secure; and the King gives veneration to every ruin 
and keeps respect for every outworn custom. 

Praise God for the Atlantic Ocean ! It is the geographi- 
cal foundation of our liberties. Yet, as I 've often written, 
there are men here, real men, ruling men, mighty men, 
and a vigorous stock. 

A civilization, especially an old civilization, isn't an 
easy nut to crack. But I notice that the men of vision 
keep their thought on us. They never forget that we 
are 100 million strong and that we dare do new things; 
and they dearly love to ask questions about — Rockefeller! 
Our power, our adaptability, our potential wealth they 
never forget. They'll hold fast to our favour for reasons 
of prudence as well as for reasons of kinship. And, when- 
ever we choose to assume the leadership of the world, 
they'll grant it — gradually — and follow loyally. They 
cannot become French, and they dislike the Germans. 
They must keep in our boat for safety as well as for 
comfort. 

Yours heartily, 

Walter H. Page. 

The following extracts are made from other letters 
written at this time: 

. . . To-night I had a long talk with the Duchess 
of X, a kindly woman who spends much time and money 
in the most helpful "uplift" work; that's the kind of 
woman she is. 

Now she and the Duke are invited to dine at the French 
Ambassador's to-morrow night. "If the Duke went into 
any house where there was any member of this Govern- 
ment," said she, "he'd turn and walk out again. We 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 171 

thought we'd better find out who the French Ambassa- 
dor 's guests are. We didn 't wish to ask him nor to have 
correspondence about it. Therefore the Duke sent his 
Secretary quietly to ask the Ambassador's Secretary — 
before we accepted." 

This is now a common occurrence. We had Sir Edward 
Grey to dinner a little while ago and we had to make sure 
we had no Tory guests that night. 

This same Duchess of X sat in the Peeresses' gallery of 
the House of Lords to-night till 7 o 'clock. " I had to sit in 
plain sight of the wives of two members of the Cabinet 
and of the wife and daughter of the Prime Minister. I 
used to know them," she said, "and it was embarrassing." 

Thus the revolution proceeds. For that's what it is. 

. . . On the other hand the existing order is the 
most skilfully devised machinery for perpetuating itself 
that has ever grown up among civilized men. Did you 
ever see a London directory? It hasn't names al- 
phabetically; but one section is "Tradesmen," another 
"The City," etc., etc., and another "The Court." Any 
one who has ever been presented at Court is in the 
"Court" section, and you must sometimes look in several 
sections to find a man. Yet everybody so values these 
distinctions that nobody complains of the inconvenience. 
When the Liberal party makes Liberals Peers in order to 
have Liberals in the House of Lords, lo! they soon turn 
Conservative after they get there. The system perpetu- 
ates itself and stifles the natural desire for change that 
most men in a state of nature instinctively desire in order 
to assert their own personalities. . . . 

. . . All this social life which engages us at this 
particular season, sets a man to thinking. The mass of 



172 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the people are very slow — almost dull; and the privileged 
are most firmly entrenched. The really alert people are 
the aristocracy. They see the drift of events. "What is 
the pleasantest part of your country to live in?" Dowa- 
ger Lady X asked me on Sunday, more than half in earn- 
est. " My husband 's ancestors sat in the House of Lords 
for six hundred years. My son sits there now — a dummy. 
They have taken all power from the Lords ; they are taxing 
us out of our lands; they are saving the monarchy for 
destruction last. England is of the past — all is going. 
God knows what is coming." . . . 

. . . And presently the presentations come. 
Lord! how sensible American women scramble for this 
privilege ! It royally fits a few of them. Well, I 've made 
some rules about presentations myself, since it's really 
a sort of personal perquisite of the Ambassador. One 
rule is, I don't present any but handsome women. 
Pretty girls : that 's what you want when you are getting 
up a show. Far too many of ours come here and marry 
Englishmen. I think I shall make another rule and ex- 
act a promise that after presentation they shall go home. 
But the American women do enliven London. . . . 

That triumph with the tariff is historic. I wrote to the 
President: "Score one!" And I have been telling the 
London writers on big subjects, notably the editor of the 
Economist, that this event, so quiet and undramatic, 
will mark a new epoch in the trade history of the world. 

. . . This island is a good breeding place for men 
Avhose children find themselves and develop into real men 
in freer lands. All that is needed to show the whole 
world that the future is ours is just this sort of an act of 
self-confidence. You know the old story of the Negro who 



ENGLAND BEFORE THE WAR 173 

saw a ghost — "Git outen de way, Mr. Rabbit, and let 
somebody come who kin run!" Score one! We're 
making History, and these people here know it. The 
trade of the world, or as much of it as is profitable, we 
may take as we will. The over-taxed, under-productive, 
army-burdened men of the Old World — alas! I read 
a settled melancholy in much of their statesmanship and 
in more of their literature. The most cheerful men in 
official life here are the High Commissioners of Canada, 
Australia, New Zealand, and such fellows who know what 
the English race is doing and can do freed from uniforms 
and heavy taxes and class feeling and such like. . . . 

. . . The two things that this island has of eternal 
value are its gardens and its men. Nature sprinkles it 
almost every day and holds its moisture down so that 
every inch of it is forever green ; and somehow men thrive 
as the lawns do — the most excellent of all races for 
progenitors. You and I 1 can never be thankful enough 
that our ancestors came of this stock. Even those that 
have stayed have cut a wide swath, and they wield good 
scythes yet. But I have moods when I pity them — for 
their dependence, for instance, on a navy (2 keels to 1) 
for their very bread and meat. They frantically resent 
conveniences. They build their great law court building 
(the architecture ecclesiastical) so as to provide an en- 
trance hall of imposing proportions which they use once a 
year; and to get this fine hall they have to make their 
court rooms, which they must use all the time, dark and 
small and inaccessible. They think as much of that once- 
a-year ceremony of opening their courts as they think of 
the even justice that they dispense; somehow they feel 
that the justice depends on the ceremony. 

'This is from a letter to President Wilson. 



174 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

This moss that has grown all over their lives (some of 
it very pretty and most of it very comfortable — it's soft 
and warm) is of no great consequence — except that they 
think they'd die if it were removed. And this state of 
mind gives us a good key to their character and habits. 

What are we going to do with this England and this 
Empire, presently, when economic forces unmistakably 
put the leadership of the race in our hands? How can 
we lead it and use it for the highest purposes of the world 
and of democracy? We can do what we like if we go 
about it heartily and with good manners (any man prefers 
to yield to a gentleman rather than to a rustic) and throw 
away — gradually — our isolating fears and alternate boast- 
ing and bashfulness. "What do we most need to learn 
from you?" I asked a gentle and bejewelled nobleman 
the other Sunday, in a country garden that invited con- 
fidences. "If I may speak without offence, modesty." 
A commoner in the company, who had seen the Rocky 
Mountains, laughed, and said: "No; see your chance and 
take it: that's what we did in the years when we made 
the world's history." . . . 



CHAPTER VI 

POLICY" AND "PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO 



THE last days of February, 1913, witnessed one of 
those sanguinary scenes in Mexico which for genera- 
tions had accompanied changes in the government of that 
distracted country. A group of revolutionists assailed 
the feeble power of Francisco Madero and virtually im- 
prisoned that executive and his forces in the Presidential 
Palace. The Mexican army, whose most influential 
officers were General Blanquet and General Victoriano 
Huerta, was hastily summoned to the rescue of the Gov- 
ernment; instead of relieving the besieged officials, how- 
ever, these generals turned their guns upon them, and so 
assured the success of the uprising. The speedy outcome 
of these transactions was the assassination of President 
Madero and the seizure of the Presidency by General 
Huerta. Another outcome was the presentation to Page 
of one of the most delicate problems in the history of 
Anglo-American relations. 

At almost any other time this change in the Mexican 
succession would have caused only a momentary disturb- 
ance. There was nothing new in the violent overthrow of 
government in Latin- America ; in Mexico itself no pres- 
ident had ever risen to power except by revolution. The 
career of Porfirio Diaz, who had maintained his author- 
ity for a third of a century, had somewhat obscured this 
fundamental fact in Mexican politics, but Diaz had domi- 
nated Mexico for seven presidential terms, not because his 

175 



176 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

methods differed from the accepted methods of his country, 
but because he was himself an executive of great force and 
a statesman of genius, and could successfully hold his own 
against any aspiring antagonist. The civilized world, 
including the United States, had long since become rec- 
onciled to this situation as almost a normal one. In 
recognizing momentarily successful adventurers, Great 
Britain and the United States had never considered such 
details as justice or constitutionalism : the legality of the 
presidential title had never been the point at issue; 
the only question involved was whether the successful 
aspirant actually controlled the country, whether he had 
established a state of affairs that approximately repre- 
sented order, and whether he could be depended upon to 
protect life and property. During the long dictatorship of 
Porfirio Diaz, however, certain events had taken place 
which had awakened the minds of Americans to the pos- 
sibility of a new international relationship with all back- 
ward peoples. The consequences of the Spanish War 
had profoundly impressed Page. This conflict had left 
the United States a new problem in Cuba and the Philip- 
pines. Under the principles that for generations had gov- 
erned the Old World there would have been no particu- 
lar difficulty in meeting this problem. The United States 
would have candidly annexed the islands, and exploited 
their resources and their peoples; we should have con- 
cerned ourselves little about any duties that might be 
owed to the several millions of human beings who in- 
habited them. Indeed, what other alternatives were 
there? 

One was to hand the possessions back to Spain, 
who in a four hundred years' experiment had demon- 
strated her unfitness to govern them; another was to give 
the islands their independence, which would have meant 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 177 

merely an indefinite continuance of anarchy. It is one 
of the greatest triumphs of American statesmanship that 
it discovered a more satisfactory solution. Essentially, 
the new plan was to establish in these undeveloped 
and politically undisciplined regions the fundamental 
conditions that may make possible the ultimate creation of 
democratic, self-governing states. It was recognized that 
constitutions and election ballots in themselves did not 
necessarily imply a democratic order. Before these there 
must come other things that were far more important, such 
as popular education, scientific agriculture, sanitation, pub- 
lic highways, railroads, and the development of the re- 
sources of nature. If the backward peoples of the world 
could be schooled in such a preliminary apprenticeship, 
the time might come when the intelligence and the con- 
science of the masses would be so enlightened that they 
could be trusted with independence. The labour of 
Leonard Wood in Cuba, and of other Americans in the 
Philippines, had apparently pointed the way to the only 
treatment of such peoples that was just to them and 
safe for mankind. 

With the experience of Cuba and the Philippines as 
a guide, it is not surprising that the situation in Mexico 
appealed to many Americans as opening a similar op- 
portunity to the United States. The two facts that out- 
stood all others were that Mexico, in her existing condition 
of popular ignorance, could not govern herself, and that 
the twentieth century could not accept indefinitely a 
condition of disorder and bloodshed that had apparently 
satisfied the nineteenth. The basic difficulty in this 
American republic was one of race and of national 
character. The fact that was constantly overlooked was 
that Mexico was not a Caucasian country: it was a great 
shambling Indian Republic. Of its 15,000,000 people less 



178 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

than 3,000,000 were of unmixed white blood, about 35 per 
cent, were pure Indian, and the rest represented varying 
mixtures of white and aboriginal stock. The masses had 
advanced little in civilization since the days of Cortez. 
Eighty per cent, were illiterate; their lives for the most 
part were a dull and squalid routine; protection against 
disease was unknown; the agricultural methods were 
most primitive; the larger number still spoke the native 
dialects which had been used in the days of Montezuma ; 
and over good stretches of the country the old tribal 
regime still represented the only form of political organi- 
zation. The one encouraging feature was that these 
Mexican Indians, backward as they might be, were far 
superior to the other native tribes of the North Ameri- 
can Continent; in ancient times, they had developed 
a state of society far superior to that of the traditional 
Redskin. Nevertheless, it was true that the progress of 
Mexico in the preceding fifty years had been due almost en- 
tirely to foreign enterprise. By 1913, about 75,000 Ameri- 
cans were living in Mexico as miners, engineers, merchants, 
and agriculturists; American investments amounted to 
about $1,200,000,000— a larger sum than that of all the 
other foreigners combined. Though the work of European 
countries, particularly Great Britain, was important, yet 
Mexico was practically an economic colony of the United 
States. Most observers agree that these foreign activities 
had not only profited the foreigners, but that they had 
greatly benefited the Mexicans themselves. The enter- 
prise of Americans had disclosed enormous riches, had 
given hundreds of thousands employment at very high 
wages, had built up new Mexican towns on modern Amer- 
ican lines, had extended the American railway system 
over a large part of the land, and had developed street 
railways, electric lighting, and other modern necessities 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 179 

in all sections of the Republic. The opening up of Mexi- 
can oil resources was perhaps the most typical of these 
achievements, as it was certainly the most adventurous. 
Americans had created this, perhaps the greatest of Mexi- 
can industries, and in 1913, these Americans owned nearly 
80 per cent, of Mexican oil. Their success had persuaded 
several Englishmen, the best known of whom was Lord 
Cowdray, to enter this same field. The activities of the 
Americans and the British in oil had an historic signifi- 
cance which was not foreseen in 1913, but which assumed 
the greatest importance in the World War; for the oil 
drawn from these Mexican fields largely supplied the 
Allied fleets and thus became an important element in the 
defeat of the Central Powers. In 1913, however, Amer- 
ican and British oil operators were objects of general sus- 
picion in both continents. They were accused of partici- 
pating too actively in Mexican politics and there were 
those who even held them responsible for the revolution- 
ary condition of the country. One picturesque legend in- 
sisted that the American oil interests looked with jealous 
hostility upon the great favours shown by the Diaz Ad- 
ministration to Lord Cowdray 's company, and that they 
had instigated the Madero revolution in order to put in 
power politicians who would be more friendly to them- 
selves. The inevitable complement to this interpretation 
of events was a prevailing suspicion that the Cowdray 
interests had promoted the Huerta revolt in order to turn 
the tables on "Standard Oil," to make safe the "conces- 
sions" already obtained from Diaz and to obtain still 
more from the new Mexican dictator. 

To determine the truth in all these allegations, which 
were freely printed in the American press of the time, 
would demand more facts than are at present available; 
yet it is clear that these oil and other "concessions" pre- 



180 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

sented the perpetual Mexican problem in a new and diffi- 
cult light. The Wilson Administration came into power 
a few days after Huerta had seized the Mexican Govern- 
ment. The first difficulty presented to the State Depart- 
ment was to determine its attitude toward this usurper. 

A few days after President Wilson's inauguration Mr. 
Irwin Laughlin, then Charge d 'Affaires in London — this 
was several weeks before Page's arrival — was instructed 
to ask the British Foreign Office what its attitude would 
be in regard to the recognition of President Huerta. Mr. 
Laughlin informed the Foreign Office that he was not in- 
structed that the United States had decided on any policy, 
but that he felt sure it would be to the advantage of both 
countries to follow the same line. The query was not an 
informal one ; it was made in definite obedience to instruc- 
tions and was intended to elicit a formal commitment. 
The unequivocal answer that Mr. Laughlin received was 
that the British Government would not recognize Huerta, 
either formally or tacitly. 

Mr. Laughlin sent his message immediately to Washing- 
ton, where it apparently made a favourable impression. 
The Administration then let it be known that the United 
States would not recognize the new Mexican regime. 
Whether Mr. Wilson would at this time have taken such a 
position, irrespective of the British attitude, is not known, 
but at this stage of the proceedings Great Britain and the 
United States were standing side by side. 

About three weeks afterward Mr. Laughlin heard that 
the British Foreign Office was about to recognize Huerta. 
Naturally the report astonished him; he at once called 
again on the Foreign Office, taking with him the despatch 
that he had recently sent to Washington. Why had the 
British Government recognized Huerta when it had given 
definite assurances to Washington that it had no intention 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 181 

of doing so? The outcome of the affair was that Sir Cecil 
Spring Rice, British Ambassador in Washington, was in- 
structed to inform the State Department that Great 
Britain had changed its mind. France, Germany, Spain, 
and most other governments followed the British example 
in recognizing the new President of Mexico. 

It is thus apparent that the initial mistake in the Huerta 
affair was made by Great Britain. Its action produced 
the most unpleasant impression upon the new Adminis- 
tration. Mr. Wilson, Mr. Bryan, and their associates in 
the cabinet easily found an explanation that was sat- 
isfactory to themselves and to the political enthusiasms 
upon which they had come into power. They believed 
that the sudden change in the British attitude was the re- 
sult of pressure from British commercial interests which 
hoped to profit from the Huerta influence. Lord Cow- 
dray was a rich and powerful Liberal; he had great con- 
cessions in Mexico which had been obtained from Presi- 
dent Diaz; it was known that Huerta aimed to make his 
dictatorship a continuation of that of Diaz, to rule Mexico 
as Diaz had ruled it, that is, by force, and to extend a 
welcoming hand to foreign capitalists. An important con- 
sideration was that the British Navy had a contract with 
the Cowdray Company for oil, which was rapidly be- 
coming indispensable as a fuel for warships, and this fact 
necessarily made the British Government almost a cham- 
pion of the Cowdray interests. It was not necessary to 
believe all the rumours that were then afloat in the Amer- 
ican press to conclude that a Huerta administration would 
be far more acceptable to the Cowdray Company than 
any headed by one of the military chieftains who were 
then disputing the control of Mexico. Mr. Wilson and 
Mr. Bryan believed that these events proved that certain 
"interests," similar to the "interests" which, in their view, 



182 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

had exercised so baleful an influence on American politics, 
were also active in Great Britain. The Wilson election 
in 1912 had been a protest against the dominance of "Wall 
Street" in American politics; Mr. Bryan's political stock- 
in-trade for a generation had consisted of little except a 
campaign against these forces; naturally, therefore, the 
suspicion that Great Britain was giving way to a British 
"Standard Oil" was enough to arm these statesmen 
against the Huerta policy, and to intensify that profound 
dislike of Huerta himself that was soon to become al- 
most an obsession. 

With this as a starting point President Wilson pres- 
ently formulated an entirely new principle for dealing with 
Latin-American republics. There could be no perma- 
nent order in these turbulent countries and nothing ap- 
proaching a democratic system until the habit of revolu- 
tion should be checked. One of the greatest encourage- 
ments to revolution, said the President, was the willingness 
of foreign governments to recognize any politician who 
succeeded in seizing the executive power. He therefore 
believed that a refusal to recognize any government 
"founded upon violence " would exercise a wholesome in- 
fluence in checking this national habit; if Great Britain 
and the United States and the other powers would set 
the example by refusing to have any diplomatic dealings 
with General Huerta, such an unfriendly attitude would 
discourage other forceful intriguers from attempting to 
repeat his experiment. The result would be that the 
decent elements in Mexico and other Latin-American 
countries would at last assert themselves, establish a 
constitutional system, and select their governments by 
constitutional means. At the bottom of the whole busi- 
ness were, in the President's and Mr. Bryan's opinion, 
the "concession" seekers, the "exploiters," who were con- 



POLICY AND "PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO 183 

stantly obtaining advantages at the hands of these 
corrupt governments and constantly stirring up revolu- 
tions for their financial profit. The time had now come to 
end the whole miserable business. "We are closing one 
chapter in the history of the world," said Mr. Wilson, 
"and opening another of unimaginable significance. 
. . . It is a very perilous thing to determine the for- 
eign policy of a nation in the terms of material interests. 
. . . We have seen such material interests threaten 
constitutional freedom in the United States. Therefore 
we will now know how to sympathize with those in the 
rest of America who have to contend with such powers, 
not only within their borders, but from outside their bor- 
ders." * 

In this way General Huerta, who, in his own eyes, was 
merely another in the long succession of Mexican revolu- 
tionary chieftains, was translated into an epochal figure 
in the history of American foreign policy; he became a 
symbol in Mr. Wilson's new scheme of things — the rep- 
resentative of the order which was to come to an end, the 
man who, all unwittingly, was to point the new way not 
only in Mexico, but in all Latin-American countries. 
The first diplomatic task imposed upon Page therefore 
was one that would have dismayed a more experienced 
ambassador. This was to persuade Great Britain to 
retrace its steps, to withdraw its recognition of Huerta, 
and to join hands with the United States in bringing 
about his downfall. The new ambassador sympathized 
with Mr. Wilson's ideas to a certain extent; the point 
at which he parted company with the President's Mex- 
ican policy will appear in due course. He therefore began 
zealously to preach the new Latin-American doctrine to 
the British Foreign Office, with results that appear in his 
letters of this period. 



184 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

To the President 

6 Grosvenor Square, London, 
Friday night, October 24, 1913. 
Dear Mr. President: 

In this wretched Mexican business, about which I have 
read columns and columns and columns of comment these 
two days and turned every conceivable proposition back 
and forth in my mind — in this whole wretched waste of 
comment, I have not seen even an allusion to any moral 
principle involved nor a word of concern about the Mexi- 
can people. It is all about who is the stronger, Huerta 
or some other bandit, and about the necessity of order 
for the sake of financial interests. Nobody recalls our 
action in giving Cuba to the Cubans or our pledge to the 
people of the Philippine Islands. But there is reference 
to the influence of Standard Oil in the American policy. 
This illustrates the complete divorce of European politics 
from fundamental morals, and it shocks even a man who 
before knew of this divorce. 

In my last talk with Sir Edward Grey I drove this home 
by emphasizing strongly the impossibility of your playing 
primary heed to any American business interest in Mexico 
— even the immorality of your doing so ; there are many 
things that come before business and there are some things 
that come before order. I used American business inter- 
ests because I couldn't speak openly of British business 
interests and his Government. I am sure he saw the 
obvious inference. But not even from him came a word 
about the moral foundation of government or about the 
welfare of the Mexican people. These are not in the 
European governing vocabulary. 

I have been trying to find a way to help this Govern- 
ment to wake up to the effect of its pro-Huerta position 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 185 

and to give them a chance to refrain from repeating that 
mistake — and to save their faces ; and I have telegraphed 
one plan to Mr. Bryan to-day. I think they ought now 
to be forced to show their hand without the possibility of 
evasion. They will not risk losing our good-will — if it 
seem wise to you to put them to a square test. 

It 's a wretched business, and the sordid level of Euro- 
pean statecraft is sad. 

I ran across the Prime Minister at the royal wedding 
reception * the other day. 

"What do you infer from the latest news from Mexico? " 
he asked. 

"Several things." 

"Tell me the most important inference you draw." 

"Well, the danger of prematurely making up one's 
mind about a Mexican adventurer." 

"All!" and he moved on. 

Very heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

To the President 

London, Sunday, Nov. 16, 1913. 
. . . About the obligations and inferences of de- 
mocracy, they are dense. They don't really believe in it; 
and they are slow to see what good will come of ousting 
Huerta unless we know beforehand who will succeed 
him. Sir Edward Grey is not dense, but in this matter 
even he is slow fully to understand. The Lord knows 
I've told him plainly over and over again and, I fear, even 
preached to him. At first he couldn't see the practical 
nature of so " idealistic " a programme. I explained to 
him how the immemorial " policy " that we all followed of 

iPrince Arthur of Connaught and the Duchess of Fife were married in the Chapel 
Royal, October 16, 1913. 



186 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

recognizing momentarily successful adventurers in Latin- 
America had put a premium on revolution ; that you had 
found something better than a policy, namely, a principle ; 
that policies change, but principles do not; that he need 
not be greatly concerned about the successor to Huerta; 
that this is primarily and ultimately an American prob- 
lem; that Great Britain's interest being only commercial 
is far less than the interest of the United States, which 
is commercial and also ethical; and so on and so on. His 
sympathies and his friendliness are all right. But 
Egypt and India were in his mind. He confessed to me 
that he was much impressed — "if you can carry it 
through." Many men are seeing the new idea (I wonder 
if you are conscious how new it is and how incredible to 
the Old World mind?) and they express the greatest and 
sincerest admiration for "your brave new President"; 
and a wave of friendliness to the United States swept over 
the Kingdom when the Government took its open stand. 
At the annual dinner of the oldest and richest of the 
merchants' guilds at which they invited me to respond 
to a toast the other night they proposed your health most 
heartily and, when I arose, they cheered longer and louder 
than I had before heard men cheer in this kingdom. 
There is, I am sure, more enthusiasm for the United 
States here, by far, than for England in the United 
States. They are simply dense about any sort of gov- 
ernment but their own — particularly dense about the 
application of democracy to "dependencies" and inferior 
peoples. I have a neighbour who spent many years as 
an administrator in India. He has talked me deaf about 
the inevitable failure of this "idealistic" Mexican pro- 
gramme. He is wholly friendly and wholly incredulous. 
And for old-time Toryism gone to seed commend me to 
the Spectator. Not a glimmering of the idea has entered 



POLICY AND PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO 187 

Strachey's head. The Times, however, now sees it pretty 
clearly. I spent Sunday a few weeks ago with two of its 
editors in the country, and they have come to see me 
several times since and written fairly good "leaders" 
out of my conversation with them. So much for this 
head. For the moment at least that is satisfactory. You 
must not forget that they can't all at once take it in, for 
they do not really know what democracy is or whither it 
leads and at bottom they do not really believe in it as a 
scheme of government — not even this Liberal Cabinet. 

The British concern for commercial interests, which 
never sleeps, will, I fear, come up continuously. But 
we shall simply do justice and stand firm, when this 
phase of the subject comes forward. 

It's amusing, when you forget its sadness, that their 
first impulse is to regard an unselfish international act 
as what Cecil Bhodes called the English "unctuous recti- 
tude." But this experience that we are having with 
them will be worth much in future dealings. They al- 
ready feel very clearly that a different hand has the helm 
in Washington; and we can drive them hard, if need be, 
for they will not forfeit our friendship. 

It is worth something to discover that Downing Street 
makes many mistakes. Infallibility dwells a long way 
from them. In this matter they have made two terrible 
blunders — the recognition of Huerta (they know that 
now) and the sending of Carden (they may already sus- 
pect that: they'll know it presently). 

Yours always faithfully, 
Walter H. Page. 

P. S. By Jove, I didn't know that I'd ever have to put 
the British Government through an elementary course in 
Democracy ! 
To the President. 



188 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Occasionally Page discussed with Sir Edward Grey an 
alternative American policy which was in the minds of 
most people at that time : 

To the President 

. . . The foregoing I wrote before this Mexican 
business took its present place. I can't get away from 
the feeling that the English simply do not and will not 
believe in any unselfish public action — further than the 
keeping of order. They have a mania for order, sheer 
order, order for the sake of order. They can't see how 
anything can come in any one's thought before order or 
how anything need come afterward. Even Sir Edward 
Grey jocularly ran me across our history with questions 
like this: 

"Suppose you have to intervene, what then?" 
"Make 'em vote and five by their decisions." 
"But suppose they will not so live?" 
"We'll go in again and make 'em vote again." 
"And keep this up 200 years?" asked he. 
"Yes," said I. "The United States will be here two 
hundred years and it can continue to shoot men for that 
little space till they learn to vote and to rule themselves." 
I have never seen him laugh so heartily. Shooting 
men into self-government! Shooting them into order- 
liness — he comprehends that; and that's all right. But 
that's as far as his habit of mind goes. At Sheffield last 
night, when I had to make a speech, I explained "ideal- 
ism" (they always quote it) in Government. They lis- 
tened attentively and even eagerly. Then they came up 
and asked if I really meant that Government should con- 
cern itself with idealistic things — beyond keeping order. 
Ought they to do so in India? — I assure you they don't 



POLICY AND PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO 189 

think beyond order. A nigger lynched in Mississippi 
offends them more than a tyrant in Mexico. 

To Edward M. House 

London, November 2, 1913. 
Dear House: 

I've been writing to the President that the Englishman 
has a mania for order, order for order's sake, and for — 
trade. He has reduced a large part of the world to order. 
He is the best policeman in creation; and — he has the 
policeman's ethics! Talk to him about character as a 
basis of government or about a moral basis of government 
in any outlying country, he'll think you daft. Bah! 
what matter who governs or how he governs or where he 
got his authority or how, so long as he keeps order. He 
won't see anything else. The lesson of our dealing with 
Cuba is lost on him. He doesn't believe that. We may 
bring this Government in line with us on Mexico. But 
in this case and in general, the moral uplift of government 
must be forced by us — I mean government in outlying 
countries. 

Mexico is only part of Ontral America, and the only 
way we can ever forge a Central and South American 
policy that will endure is this way, precisely, by saying 
that your momentarily successful adventurer can't count 
on us anywhere ; the man that rules must govern for the 
governed. Then we have a policy; and nobody else has 
that policy. This Mexican business is worth worlds to 
us — to establish this. 

We may have a diplomatic fight here; and I'm ready! 
Very ready on this, for its own sake and for reasons that 
follow, to wit: 

Extraordinary and sincere and profound as is the re- 
spect of the English for the American people, they hold 



190 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the American Government in contempt. It shifts and 
doesn't keep its treaty, etc., etc. — They are right, too. 
But they need to feel the hand that now has the helm. 

But one or two things have first to be got out of the 
way. That Panama tolls is the worst. We are dead 
wrong in that, as we are dead right on the Mexican 
matter. If it were possible (I don't know that it is) for 
the President to say (quietly, not openly) that he agrees 
with us — if he do — then the field would be open for a fight 
on Mexico ; and the reenforcement of our position would 
be incalculable. 

Then we need in Washington some sort of Bureau or 
Master of Courtesies for the Government, to do and to 
permit us to do those little courtesies that the English 
spend half their time in doing— this in the course of our 
everyday life and intercourse. For example: When I was 
instructed to inform this Government that our fleet would 
go to the Mediterranean, I was instructed also to say that 
they mustn't trouble to welcome us — don't pay no 'ten- 
tion to us! Well, that's what they five for in times of 
peace — ceremonies. We come along and say, "We're 
comin' but, hell! don't kick up no fuss over us, we're from 
Missouri, we are!" And the Briton shrugs his shoulders 
and says, "Boor!" These things are happening all the 
time. Of course no one nor a dozen nor a hundred count ; 
but generations of 'em have counted badly. A Govern- 
ment without manners. 

If I could outdo these folk at their game of courtesy, 
and could keep our treaty faith with 'em, then I could lick 
'em into the next century on the moral aspects of the 
Mexican Government, and make 'em look up and salute 
every time the American Government is mentioned. 
See? — Is there any hope? — Such is the job exactly. And 
you know what it would lead to — even in our lifetime — 



''POLICY" AND "PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO 191 

to the leadership of the world: and we should presently be 
considering how we may best use the British fleet, the 
British Empire, and the English race for the betterment 
of mankind. 

Yours eagerly, 

W. H. P. 

A word of caution is necessary to understand Page's 
references to the British democracy. That the parliamen- 
tary system is democratic in the sense that it is respon- 
sive to public opinion he would have been the first to 
admit. That Great Britain is a democracy in the sense 
that the suffrage is general is also apparent. But, in 
these reflections on the British commonwealth, the Am- 
bassador was thinking of his old familiar figure, the 
" Forgotten Man" — the neglected man, woman, and child 
of the masses. In an address delivered, in June, 1914, 
before the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Page gave 
what he regarded as the definition of the American 
ideal. "The fundamental article in the creed of the 
American democracy — you may call it the fundamental 
dogma if you like — is the unchanging and unchangeable 
resolve that every human being shall have his opportunity 
for his utmost development — his chance to become and 
to do the best that he can." Democracy is not only a 
system of government — "it is a scheme of society." 
Every citizen must have not only the suffrage, he must 
likewise enjoy the same advantages as his neighbour for 
education, for social opportunity, for good health, for 
success in agriculture, manufacture, finance, and business 
and professional life. The country that most success- 
fully opened all these avenues to every boy or girl, ex- 
clusively on individual merit, was in Page's view the most 
democratic. He believed that the United States did this 



192 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

more completely than Great Britain or any other country ; 
and therefore he believed that we were far more demo- 
cratic. He had not found in other countries the splendid 
phenomenon presented by America's great agricultural 
region. "The most striking single fact about the United 
States is, I think, this spectacle, which, so far as I know, 
is new in the world: On that great agricultural area are 
about seven million farms of an average size of about 140 
acres, most of which are tilled by the owners themselves, 
a population that varies greatly, of course, in its tlirift 
and efficiency, but most of which is well housed, in houses 
they themselves own, well clad, well fed, and a population 
that trains practically all its children in schools main- 
tained by public taxation." It was some such vision as 
this that Page hoped to see realized ultimately in Mex- 
ico. And some such development as this would make 
Mexico a democracy. It was his difficulty in making 
the British see the Mexican problem in this light that 
persuaded him that, in this comprehensive meaning of 
the word, the democratic ideal had made an inappreciable 
progress in Europe — and even in Great Britain itself. 

ii 

These letters are printed somewhat out of their chrono- 
logical order because they picture definitely the two 
opposing viewpoints of Great Britain and the United 
States on Mexico and Latin-America generally. Here, 
then, was the sharp issue drawn between the Old World 
and the New — on one side the dreary conception of out- 
lying countries as fields to be exploited for the benefit of 
" investors," successful revolutionists to be recognized in 
so far as they promoted such ends, and no consideration 
to be shown to the victims of their rapacity; and the 
new American idea, the idea which had been made reality 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 193 

in Cuba and the Philippines, that the enlightened and 
successful nations stood something in the position of 
trustees to such unfortunate lands and that it was their 
duty to lead them along the slow pathway of progress 
and democracy. So far the Wilsonian principle could be 
joyfully supported by the Ambassador. Page disagreed 
with the President, however, in that he accepted the 
logical consequences of this programme. His formula of 
"shooting people into self-government," which had so 
entertained the British Foreign Secretary, was a char- 
acteristically breezy description of the alternative that 
Page, hi the last resort, was ready to adopt, but which 
President Wilson and Secretary Bryan persistently re- 
fused to consider. Page was just as insistent as the 
Washington Administration that Huerta should resign 
and that Great Britain should assist the United States 
in accomplishing his dethronement, and that the Mexican 
people should have a real opportunity of setting up for 
themselves. He was not enough of an "idealist," how- 
ever, to believe that the Mexicans, without the assistance 
of their powerful neighbours, could succeed in establishing 
a constitutional government. In early August, 1913, 
President Wilson sent Mr. John Lind, ex-Governor of 
Minnesota, to Mexico as his personal representative. 
His mission was to invite Huerta to remove himself 
from Mexican politics, and to permit the Mexican people 
to hold a presidential election at which Huerta would 
himself agree not to be a candidate. Mr. Lind presented 
these proposals on August 15th, and President Huerta re- 
jected every one of them with a somewhat disconcerting 
promptitude. 

That Page was prepared to accept the consequences of 
this failure appears in the following letter. The lack of 
confidence which it discloses in Secretary Bryan was a 



194 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

feeling that became stronger as the Mexican drama urn 
folded. 

To Edward M. House 

London, August 25, 1913. 
My dear House: 

. . . If you find a chance, get the substance of this 

memorandum into the hands of two men: the President 

and the Secretary of Agriculture. Get 'em in Houston's 

at once — into the President's whenever the time is ripe. 

I send the substance to Washington and I send many 

other such things. But I never feel sure that they reach 

the President. The most confidential letter I have 

written was lost in Washington, and there is pretty good 

testimony that it reached the Secretary's desk. He does 

not acknowledge the important things, but writes me 

confidentially to inquire if the office of the man who 

attends to the mail pouches (the diplomatic and naval 

despatches in London) 1 is not an office into which he 

might put a Democrat. — But I keep at it. It would be 

a pleasure to know that the President knows what I 

am trying to do. . . . 

Yours heartily, 

Walter H. Page. 

Following is the memorandum : 

In October the provisional recognition of Huerta by 
England will end. Then this Government will be free. 
Then is the time for the United States to propose to 
England joint intervention merely to reduce this turbu- 
lent scandal of a country to order — on an agreement, of 
course, to preserve the territorial integrity of Mexico. 
It's a mere police duty that all great nations have to do — 
as they did in the case of the Boxer riots in China. Of 

^ee the Appendix (at end of Vol. II) for this episode in detail. 



it 



policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 195 



course Germany and France, etc., ought to be invited — 
on the same pledge: the preservation of territorial in- 
tegrity. If Germany should come in, she will thereby 
practically acknowledge the Monroe Doctrine, as England 
has already done. If Germany stay out, then she can't 
complain. England and the United States would have 
only to announce their intention: there'd be no need to 
fire a gun. Besides settling the Mexican trouble, we'd 
gain much — having had England by our side in a praise- 
worthy enterprise. That, and the President's visit 1 
would give the world notice to whom it belongs, and 
cause it to be quiet and to go about its proper business of 
peaceful industry. 

Moreover, it would show all the Central and South 
American States that we don't want any of their territory, 
that we will not let anybody else have any, but that they, 
too, must keep orderly government or the great Nations 
of the earth, will, at our bidding, forcibly demand quiet in 
their borders. I believe a new era of security would come 
in all Spanish America. Investments would be safer, 
governments more careful and orderly. And — we would 
not have made any entangling alliance with anybody. All 
this would prevent perhaps dozens of little wars. It's 
merely using the English fleet and ours to make the world 
understand that the time has come for orderliness and 
peace and for the honest development of backward, tur- 
bulent lands and peoples. 

If you don't put this through, tell me what's the 
matter with it. I've sent it to Washington after talking 
and being talked to for a month and after the hardest 
kind of thinking. Isn't this constructive? Isn't it using 



ir There was a suggestion, which the Ambassador endorsed, that President Wilson 
should visit England to accept, in the name of the United States, Sulgrave Manor, 
the ancestral home of the Washingtons. See Chapter IX, page 274. 



196 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the great power lying idle about the world, to do the thing 
that most needs to be done? 

Colonel House presented this memorandum to the 
President, but events sufficiently disclosed that it had no 
influence upon his Mexican policy. Two days after it 
was written Mr. Wilson went before Congress, announced 
that the Lind Mission had failed, and that conditions in 
Mexico had grown worse. He advised all Americans to 
leave the country, and declared that he would lay an 
embargo on the shipment of munitions — an embargo 
that would affect both the Huerta forces and the revo- 
lutionary groups that were fighting them. 

Meanwhile Great Britain had taken another step that 
made as unpleasant an impression on Washington as had 
the recognition of Huerta. Sir Lionel Edward Gresley 
Carden had for several years been occupying British 
diplomatic posts in Central America, in all of which he 
had had disagreeable social and diplomatic relations with 
Americans. Sir Lionel had always shown great zeal in 
promoting British commercial interests, and, justly or 
unjustly, had acquired the fame of being intensely anti- 
American. From 1911 to 1913 Carden had served as 
British Minister to Cuba; here his anti- Americanism had 
shown itself in such obnoxious ways that Mr. Knox, 
Secretary of State under President Taft, had instructed 
Ambassador Reid to bring his behaviour to the attention 
of the British Foreign Office. These representations took 
practically the form of requesting Carden's removal from 
Cuba. Perhaps the unusual relations that the United 
States bore toward Cuba warranted Mr. Knox in making 
such an approach; yet the British refused to see the mat- 
ter in that light; not only did they fail to displace Carden, 
but they knighted him— the traditional British way of 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 197 

defending a faithful public servant who has been at- 
tacked. Sir Lionel Carden refused to mend his ways; 
he continued to indulge in what Washington regarded as 
anti- American propaganda; and a second time Secretary 
Knox intimated that his removal would be acceptable to 
this country, and a second time this request was refused. 
With this preliminary history of Carden as a background, 
and with the British-American misunderstanding over 
Huerta at its most serious stage, the emotions of Washing- 
ton may well be imagined when the news came, in July, 
1913, that this same gentleman had been appointed 
British Minister to Mexico. If the British Government 
had ransacked its diplomatic force to find the one man 
who would have been most objectionable to the United 
States, it could have made no better selection. The 
President and Mr. Bryan were pretty well persuaded that 
the "oil concessionaires" were dictating British-Mexican 
policy, and this appointment translated their suspicion 
into a conviction. Carden had seen much service in 
Mexico; he had been on the friendliest terms with Diaz; 
and the newspapers openly charged that the British oil 
capitalists had dictated his selection. All these asser- 
tions Carden and the oil interests denied; yet Carden's 
behaviour from the day of his appointment showed great 
hostility to the United States. A few days after he had 
reached New York, on his way to his new post, the New 
York World published an interview with Carden in which 
he was reported as declaring that President Wilson knew 
nothing about the Mexican situation and in which he 
took the stand that Huerta was the man to handle 
Mexico at this crisis. His appearance in the Mexican 
capital was accompanied by other highly undiplomatic 
publications. In late October President Huerta arrested 
all his enemies in the Mexican Congress, threw them 



198 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

into jail, and proclaimed himself dictator. Washington 
was much displeased that Sir Lionel Carden should have 
selected the day of these high-handed proceedings to 
present to Huerta his credentials as minister; in its sen- 
sitive condition, the State Department interpreted this 
act as a reaffirmation of that recognition that had al- 
ready caused so much confusion in Mexican affairs. 

Carden made things worse by giving out more news- 
paper interviews, a tendency that had apparently grown 
into a habit. "I do not believe that the United States 
recognizes the seriousness of the situation here. . . . 
I see no reason why Huerta should be displaced by another 
man whose abilities are yet to be tried. . . . Safety 
in Mexico can be secured only by punitive and remedial 
methods, and a strongman;" — such were a few of the re- 
flections that the reporters attributed to this astonishing 
diplomat. Meanwhile, the newspapers were filled with 
reports that the British Minister was daily consorting 
with Huerta, that he was constantly strengthening that 
chieftain's backbone in opposition to the United States 
and that he was obtaining concessions in return for this 
support. To what extent these press accounts rested on 
fact cannot be ascertained definitely at this time; yet it 
is a truth that Carden's general behaviour gave great 
encouragement to Huerta and that it had the deplorable 
effect of placing Great Britain and the United States in 
opposition. The interpretation of the casual reader was 
that Great Britain was determined to seat Huerta in the 
Presidency against the determination of the United 
States to keep him out. The attitude of the Washington 
cabinet was almost bitter at this time against the British 
Government. "There is a feeling here," wrote Secretary 
Lane to Page, "that England is playing a game unworthy 
of her." 



' POLICY AND "PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO ]99 

The British Government promptly denied the authen- 
ticity of the Carden interview, but that helped matters 
little, for the American public insisted on regarding such 
denials as purely diplomatic. Something of a storm 
against Carden arose in England itself, where it was 
believed that his conception of his duties was estranging 
two friendly countries. Probably the chief difficulty was 
that the British Foreign Office could see no logical se- 
quence in the Washington policy. Put Huerta out — yes, 
by all means: but what then? Page's notes of his visit 
to Sir Edward Grey a few days after the latest Carden 
interview confirm this: 

I have just come from an hour's talk with Grey about 
Mexico. He showed me his telegram to Carden, asking 
about Carden's reported interview criticizing the United 
States, and Carden's flat denial. He showed me another 
telegram to Carden about Huerta's reported boast that 
he would have the backing of London, Paris, and Berlin 
against the United States, in which Grey advised Carden 
that British policy should be to keep aloof from Huerta's 
boasts and plans. Carden denied that Huerta made such 
a boast in his statement to the Diplomatic Corps. Grey 
wishes the President to know of these telegrams. 

Talk then became personal and informal. I went over 
the whole subject again, telling how the Press and people 
of the United States were becoming critical of the British 
Government; that they regarded the problem as wholly 
American; that they resented aid to Huerta, whom they 
regarded as a mere tyrant; that they suspected British 
interests of giving financial help to Huerta; that many 
newspapers and persons refused to believe Carden's de- 
nial; that the President's policy was not academic but 
was the only policy that would square with American 



200 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ideals and that it was unchangeable. I cited our treat- 
ment of Cuba. I explained again that I was talking un- 
officially and giving him only my own interpretation of 
the people's mood. He asked, if the British Government 
should withdraw the recognition of Huerta, what would 
happen. 

"In my opinion," I replied, "he would collapse." 
"What would happen then — worse chaos?" 
"That is impossible," I said. "There is no worse 
chaos than deputies in jail, the dictatorial doubling of the 
tariff, the suppression of opinion, and the practical ban- 
ishment of independent men. If Huerta should fall, 
there is hope that suppressed men and opinion will set up 
a successful government." 

"Suppose that fail," he asked — "what then?" 
I replied that, in case of continued and utter failure, 
the United States might feel obliged to repeat its dealings 
with Cuba and that the continued excitement of opinion 
in the United States might precipitate this. 

Grey protested that he knew nothing of what British 
interests had done or were doing, that he wished time to 
think the matter out and that he was glad to await the 
President's communication. He thanked me cordially 
for my frank statements and declared that he understood 
perfectly their personal nature. I impressed him with 
the seriousness of American public opinion. 

The last thing that the British Government desired 
at this time was a serious misunderstanding with the 
United States, on Mexico or any other matter. Yet the 
Mexican situation, in early November, 1913, clearly de- 
manded a complete cleaning up. The occasion soon pre- 
sented itself. Sir William Tyrrell, the private secretary 
of Sir Edward Grey sailed, in late October, for the United 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 201 

States. The purpose of his visit was not diplomatic, but 
Page evidently believed that his presence in the United 
States offered too good an opportunity to be lost. 

To Edward M. House 

Newton Hall, Newton, Cambridge. 
Sunday, October 26, 1913. 
Dear House : 

Sir William Tyrrell, the secretary of Sir Edward Grey — 
himself, I think, an M. P. — has gone to the United States 
to visit his friend, Sir Cecil Spring Rice. He sailed yes- 
terday, going first to Dublin, N. H., thence with the Am- 
bassador to Washington. He has never before been to 
the United States, and he went off in high glee, alone, 
to see it. He's a good fellow, a thoroughly good fellow, 
and he's an important man. He of course has Sir Ed- 
ward's complete confidence, but he's also a man on 
his own account. I have come to reckon it worth 
while to get ideas that I want driven home into his 
head. It's a good head and a good place to put good 
ideas. 

The Lord knows you have far too much to do; but in 
this juncture I should count it worth your while to pay 
him some attention. I want him to get the President's 
ideas about Mexico, good and firm and hard. They are 
so far from altruistic in their politics here that it would 
be a good piece of work to get our ideas and aims into 
this man's head. His going gives you and the President 
and everybody a capital chance to help me keep our good 
American-English understanding. 

Whatever happen in Mexico, I'm afraid there will be 
a disturbance of the very friendly feeling between the 
American people and the English. I am delivering a 
series of well-thought-out discourses to Sir Edward — 



202 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

with what effect, I don't know. If the American press 
could be held in a little, that would be as good as it is 
impossible. 

I'm now giving the Foreign Office the chance to refrain 
from more premature recognizing. 

Very hastily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

Sir William Tyrrell, to whom Page refers so pleasantly, 
was one of the most engaging men personally in the 
British Foreign Office, as well as one of the most influen- 
tial. Though he came to America on no official mission 
to our Government, he was exceptionally qualified to 
discuss Mexico and other pending questions with the 
Washington Administration. He had an excellent back- 
ground, and a keen insight into the human aspects 
of all problems, but perhaps his most impressive phys- 
ical trait was a twinkling eye, as his most conspicu- 
ous mental quality was certainly a sense of humour. 
Constant association with Sir Edward Grey had given his 
mind a cast not dissimilar to that of his chief — a belief 
in ordinary decency in international relations, an enthu- 
siasm for the better ordering of the world, a sincere ad- 
miration for the United States and a desire to maintain 
British- American friendship. In his first encounter with 
official Washington Sir William needed all that sense of 
the ludicrous with which he is abundantly endowed. 
This took the form of a long interview with Secretary 
Bryan on the foreign policy of Great Britain. The 
Secretary harangued Sir William on the wickedness of 
the British Empire, particularly in Egypt and India and 
in Mexico. The British oil men, Mr. Bryan declared, were 
nothing but the ''paymasters" of the British Cabinet. 

"You are wrong," replied the Englishman, who saw 



a 



POLICY" AND "PRINCIPLE" IN MEXICO 203 



that the only thing to do on an occasion of this kind was 
to refuse to take the Secretary seriously. ' ' Lord Cowdray 
hasn't money enough. Through a long experience with 
corruption the Cabinet has grown so greedy that Cow- 
dray hasn't the money necessary to reach their price." 

"Ah," said Mr. Bryan, triumphantly, accepting Sir 
William's bantering answer as made in all seriousness. 
"Then you admit the charge." 

From tins he proceeded to denounce Great Britain in 
still more unmeasured terms. The British, he declared, 
had only one interest in Mexico, and that was oil. The 
Foreign Office had simply handed its Mexican policy 
over to the "oil barons" for predatory purposes. 

"That's just what the Standard Oil people told me in 
New York," the British diplomat replied. "Mr. Secre- 
tary, you are talking just like a Standard Oil man. The 
ideas that you hold are the ones which the Standard Oil 
is disseminating. You are pursuing the policy which 
they have decided on. Without knowing it you are 
promoting the interest of Standard Oil." 

Sir William saw that it was useless to discuss Mexico 
with Mr. Bryan — that the Secretary was not a thinker 
but an emotionalist. However, despite their differences, 
the two men liked each other and had a good time. As 
Sir William was leaving, he bowed deferentially to the 
Secretary of State and said: 

"You have stripped me naked, Mr. Secretary, but I 
am unashamed." 

W 7 ith President Wilson, however, the Englishman had 
a more satisfactory experience. He was delighted by 
the President's courtesy, charm, intelligence, and con- 
versational powers. The impression which Sir William 
obtained of the American President on this occasion re- 
mained with him for several years and was itself an 



204 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

important element in British- American relations after the 
outbreak of the World War. And the visit was a profit- 
able one for Mr. Wilson, since he obtained a clear under- 
standing of the British policy toward Mexico. Sir William 
succeeded in persuading the President that the so-called 
oil interests were not dictating the policy of Sir Edward 
Grey. That British oil men were active in Mexico was ap- 
parent; but they were not using a statesman of so high a 
character as Sir Edward Grey for their purposes and would 
not be able to do so. The British Government entertained 
no ambitions in Mexico that meant unfriendliness to the 
United States. In no way was the policy of Great Britain 
hostile to our own. In fact, the British recognized the pre- 
dominant character of the American interest in Mexico and 
were willing to accept any policy in which Washington 
would take the lead. All it asked was that British pro- 
perty and British fives be protected; once these were 
safeguarded Great Britain was ready to stand aside and let 
the United States deal with Mexico in its own way. 

The one disappointment of this visit was that Sir 
William Tyrrell was unable to obtain from President 
Wilson any satisfactory statement of his Mexican policy. 

"When I go back to England," said the Englishman, 
as the interview was approaching an end, "I shall be 
asked to explain your Mexican policy. Can you tell me 
what it is?" 

President Wilson looked at him earnestly and said, in 
his most decisive manner: 

"I am going to teach the South American Republics to 
elect good men!" 

This was excellent as a purpose, but it could hardly be 
regarded as a programme. 

"Yes," replied Sir William, "but, Mr. President, I 
shall have to explain this to Englishmen, who, as you 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 205 

know, lack imagination. They cannot see what is the 
difference between Huerta, Carranza, and Villa." 

The only answer he could obtain was that Carranza 
was the best of the three and that Villa was not so bad as 
he had been painted. But the phrase that remained 
with the British diplomat was that one so characteristi- 
cally Wilsonian: "I propose to teach the South American 
Republics to elect good men." In its attitude, its phras- 
ing, it held the key to much Wilson history. 

Additional details of this historic interview are given 
in Colonel House's letters: 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 
November 4, 1913. 
Dear Page: 

Your cablegram, telling me of the arrival of Sir William 
Tyrrell on the Imperator, was handed me on my way to 
the train as I left for Washington. 

The President talked with me about the Mexican situ- 
ation and it looks as if something positive will be done in a 
few days unless Huerta abdicates. 

It is to be the policy of this Administration henceforth 
not to recognize any Central American government that 
is not formed along constitutional lines. Anything else 
would be a makeshift policy. As you know, revolutions 
and assassinations in order to obtain control of govern- 
ments are instituted almost wholly for the purpose of 
loot and when it is found that these methods will not 
bring the desired results, they will cease. 

The President also feels strongly in regard to foreign 
financial interests seeking to control those unstable gov- 
ernments through concessions and otherwise. Tins, too, 



206 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

he is determined to discourage as far as it is possible to 
do so. 

This was a great opportunity for England and America 
to get together. You know how strongly we both feel 
upon this subject and I do not believe that the President 
differed greatly from us, but the recent actions of the 
British Government have produced a decided irritation, 
which to say the least is unfortunate. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 
November 14, 1913. 
Dear Page: 

Things have happened quickly since I last wrote to you. 

I went to Washington Monday night as the guest of 
the Bryans. They have been wanting me to come to 
them and I thought this a good opportunity. 

I talked the Mexican situation out thoroughly with 
him and one of your dispatches came while I was there. 
I found that he was becoming prejudiced against the 
British Government, believing that their Mexican policy 
was based purely upon commercialism, that they were 
backing Huerta quietly at the instance of Lord Cowdray, 
and that Cowdray had not only already obtained con- 
cessions from the Huerta Government, but expected to 
obtain others. Sir Lionel Carden was also all to the bad. 

I saw the President and Ins views were not very dif- 
ferent from those of Mr. Bryan. I asked the President 
to permit me to see Sir William Tyrrell and talk to him 
frankly and to attempt to straighten the tangle out. He 
gave me a free hand. 

I lunched with Sir William at the British Embassy al- 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 207 

though Sir Cecil Spring Rice was not well enough to be 
present. I had a long talk with Sir William after lunch 
and found that our suspicions were unwarranted and that 
we could get together without any difficulty whatever. 

I told him very frankly what our purpose was in Mex- 
ico and that we were determined to carry it through if it 
was within our power to do so. That being so I suggested 
that he get his government to cooperate cordially with 
ours rather than to accept our policy reluctantly. 

I told him that you and I had dreamed of a sympathetic 
alliance between the two countries and that it seemed to 
me that tins dream might come true very quickly because 
of the President and Sir Edward Grey. He expressed a 
willingness to cooperate freely and I told him I would 
arrange an early meeting with the President. I thought it 
better to bring the President into the game rather than 
Mr. Bryan. I told him of the President's attitude upon 
the Panama toll question but I touched upon that lightly 
and in confidence, preferring for the President himself to 
make his own statement. 

I left the Bryans in the morning of the luncheon with 
Sir William, intending to take an afternoon train for New 
York, but the President wanted me to stay with him at the 
White House over night and meet Sir William with him 
at half past nine the following morning. He was so tired 
that I did not have the heart to urge a meeting that night. 

From half past nine until half past ten the President 
and Sir William repeated to each other what they had 
said separately to me, and which I had given to each, 
and then the President elaborated upon the toll question 
much to the satisfaction of Sir William. 

He explained the matter in detail and assured him of 
his entire sympathy and purpose to carry out our treaty 
obligations, both in the letter and the spirit. 



208 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Sir William was very happy after the interview and 
when the President left us he remained to talk to me and 
to express Ins gratification. He cleared up in the Presi- 
dent's mind all suspicion, I think, in regard to concessions 
and as to the intentions and purposes of the British Gov- 
ernment. He assured the President that his government 
would work cordially with ours and that they would do 
all that they could to bring about joint pressure through 
Germany and France for the elimination of Huerta. 

We are going to give them a chance to see what they 
can do with Huerta before moving any further. Sir 
William thinks that if we are willing to let Huerta save 
his face he can be got out without force of arms. 

Sir William said that if foreign diplomats could have 
heard our conversation they would have fallen in a faint; 
it was so frankly indiscreet and undiplomatic. I did not 
tell him so, but I had it in the back of my mind that 
where people wanted to do right and had the power to 
carry out their intentions there was no need to cloak their 
thoughts in diplomatic language. 

All this makes me very happy for it looks as if we are in 
sight of the promised land. 

I am pleased to tell you of the compliments that have 
been thrown at you by the President, Mr. Bryan, and 
Sir William. They were all enthusiastic over your work 
in London and expressed the keenest appreciation of the 
way in which you have handled matters. Sir William 
told me that he did not remember an American Am- 
bassador that was your equal. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

So far as a meeting between a British diplomat and the 
President of the United States could solve the Mexican 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 209 

problem, that problem was apparently solved. The 
dearest wish of Mr. Wilson, the elimination of Huerta, 
seemed to be approaching realization, now that he had 
persuaded Great Britain to support him in this enter- 
prise. Whether Sir William Tyrrell, or Sir Edward 
Grey, had really become converted to the President's 
"idealistic" plans for Mexico is an entirely different 
question. At this time there was another matter in 
which Great Britain's interest was even greater than in 
Mexico. These letters have already contained reference to 
tolls on the Panama Canal. Colonel House's letter shows 
that the President discussed this topic with Sir William 
Tyrrell and gave him assurances that this would be 
settled on terms satisfactory to Great Britain. It can- 
not be maintained that that assurance was really the 
consideration which paved the way to an understanding 
on Huerta. The conversation was entirely informal; 
indeed, it could not be otherwise, for Sir William Tyrrell 
brought no credentials ; there could be no definite bargain 
or agreement, but there is little question that Mr. Wilson's 
friendly disposition toward British shipping through the 
Panama Canal made it easy for Great Britain to give him 
a free hand in Mexico. 

A few days after this White House interview Sir 
Lionel Carden performed what must have been for him 
an uncongenial duty. This loquacious minister led a 
procession of European diplomats to General Huerta, 
formally advised that warrior to yield to the American 
demands and withdraw from the Presidency of Mexico. 
The delegation informed the grim dictator that their 
governments were supporting the American policy and 
Sir Lionel brought him the unwelcome news that he could 
not depend upon British support. About the same time 
Premier Asquith made conciliatory remarks on Mexico 



210 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

at the Guildhall banquet. He denied that the British 
Government had undertaken any policy "deliberately 
opposed to that of the United States. There is no vestige 
of foundation for such a rumour." These events changed 
the atmosphere at Washington, which now became al- 
most as cordial to Great Britain as it had for several 
months been suspicious. 

To Edward M. House 

London, November 15, 1913. 
Dear House: 

All's well here. The whole trouble was caused not 
here but in Mexico City; and that is to be remedied yet. 
And it will be ! For the moment it is nullified. But you 
need give yourself no concern about the English Govern- 
ment or people, in the long run. It is taking them some 
time to see the vast difference between acting by a 
principle and acting by what they call a "policy." They 
and we ourselves too have from immemorial time been 
recognizing successful adventurers, and they didn't in- 
stantly understand this new "idealistic" move; they 
didn't know the man at the helm! I preached many 
sermons to our friend, I explained the difference to many 
private groups, I made after-dinner speeches leading right 
up to the point — as far as I dared, I inspired many news- 
paper articles; and they see it now and have said it and 
have made it public ; and the British people are enthusias- 
tic as far as they understand it. 

And anybody concerned here understands the language 
that the President speaks now. You mustn't forget that 
in all previous experiences in Latin America we ourselves 
have been as much to blame as anybody else. Now Ave 
have a clear road to travel, a policy based on character 
to follow forever — a new era. Our dealing with Cuba was 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 211 

a new chapter in the history of the world. Our dealing 
with Mexico is Chapter II of the same Revelation. Tell 
em this in Washington. 

The remaining task will be done too and I think pretty 
soon. For that I need well-loaded shells. I'll supply 
the gunpowder. 

And don't you concern yourself about the English. 
They're all right — a little slow, but all right. 

Heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

To Edward M. House 

Newtimber Place, Hassocks, Sussex, 
Sunday, November 23, 1913. 
Dear House: 

Your letter telling me about Tyrrell and the President 
brought me great joy. Tyrrell is in every way a square 
fellow, much like his Chief; and, you may depend on it, 
they are playing fair — in their slow way. They always 
think of India and of Egypt — never of Cuba. Lord! 
Lord! the fun I've had, the holy joy I am having (I never 
expected to have such exalted and invigorating felicity) 
in delivering elementary courses of instruction in de- 
mocracy to the British Government. Deep down at the 
bottom, they don't know what Democracy means. 
Their Empire is in the way. Their centuries of land- 
stealing are in the way. Their unsleeping watchfulness 
of British commerce is in the way. 'You say you'll 
shoot men into self-government," said Sir Edward. 
"Doesn't that strike you as comical?" And I answered, 
"It is comical only to the Briton and to others who have 
associated shooting with subjugation. We associate 
shooting with freedom." Half this blessed Sunday at 
this country house I have been ramming the idea down 



212 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the throat of the Lord Chancellor. 1 He sees it, too, being 
a Scotchman. I take the members of the Government, 
as I get the chance or can make it, and go over with them 
the A B C of the President's principle: no territorial 
annexation; no trafficking with tyrants; no stealing of 
American governments by concession or financial thimble- 
rigging. They'll not recognize another Huerta — they're 
sick of that. And they'll not endanger our friendship. 
They didn't see the idea in the beginning. Of course 
the real trouble has been in Mexico City— Carden. They 
don't know yet just what he did. But they will, if I 
can find out. I haven't yet been able to make them tell 
me at Washington. Washington is a deep hole of silence 
toward ambassadors. By gradual approaches, I'm going 
to prove that Carden can do — and in a degree has al- 
ready done — as much harm as Bryce did good — and all 
about a paltry few hundreds of million dollars' worth of 
oil. What the devil does the oil or the commerce of 
Mexico or the investments there amount to in com- 
parison with the close friendship of the two nations? 
Carden can't be good long: he'll break out again pres- 
ently. He has no political imagination. That's a rather 
common disease here, too. Few men have. It's good 
fun. I'm inviting the Central and South American 
Ministers to lunch with me, one by one, and I'm in- 
cidentally loading them up. I have all the boys in the 
Embassy full of zeal and they are tackling the Secretaries 
of the Central and South American legations. We've 
got a principle now to deal by with them. They'll see 
after a while. 

English people are all right, too— except the Doc- 
trinaires. They write much rank ignorance. But the 
learned men learn things last of all. 

discount Haldane, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain since 1912. 



"policy" and "principle" IN MEXICO 213 

I thank you heartily for your good news about Tyrrell, 
about the President (but I'm sorry he's tired: make him 
quit eating meat and play golf) ; about the Panama tolls ; 
about the Currency Bill (my love to McAdoo) ; about my 
own little affairs. — We are looking with the very greatest 
pleasure to the coming of the young White House couple. 
I've got two big dinners for them — Sir Edward, the Lord 
Chancellor, a duchess or two, some good folk, Ruth 
Bryan, a couple of ambassadors, etc., etc., etc. Then 
we'll take 'em to a literary speaking-feast or two, have 
'em invited to a few great houses; then we'll give 'em 
another dinner, and then we'll get a guide for them to 
see all the reforming institutions in London, to their 
hearts' content — lots of fun. 

Lots of fun : I got the American Society for its Thanks- 
giving dinner to invite the Lord Chancellor to respond 
to a toast to the President. He's been to the United 
States lately and he is greatly pleased. So far, so good. 
Then I came down here — where he, too, is staying. After 
five or six hours' talk about everything else he said, 
"By the way, your countrymen have invited me," etc., 
etc. "Now what would be appropriate to talk about?" 
Then I poured him full of the New Principle as regards 
Central and South America; for, if he will talk on that, 
what he says will be reported and read on both conti- 
nents. He's a foxy Scot, and he didn't say he would, but 
he said that he'd consider it. "Consider it" means that 
he will confer with Sir Edward. I'm beginning to learn 
their vocabulary. Anyhow the Lord Chancellor is in 
fine. 

It's good news you send always. Keep it up — keep 
it up. The volume of silence that I get is oppressive. 
You remember the old nigger that wished to pick a quarrel 
with another old nigger? Nigger No. 1 swore and stormed 



214 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

at nigger No. 2, and kept on swearing and storming, 
hoping to provoke him. Nigger No. 2 said not a word, 
but kept at his work. Nigger No. 1 swore and stormed 
more. Nigger No. 2 said not a word. Nigger No. 1 
frothed still more. Nigger No. 2, still silent. Nigger 
No. 1 got desperate and said: "Look here, you kinky- 
headed, flat-nosed, slab-footed nigger, I warns you 'fore 
God, don't you keep givin' me none o' your damned 
silence!" I wish you'd tell all my friends that story. 

Always heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 



CHAPTER VII 

PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 

PAGE'S remarks about the "trouble in Mexico City" 
and the "remaining task" refer, of course, to Sir 
Lionel Carden. "As I make Carden out," he wrote about 
this time, "he's a slow-minded, unimaginative, com- 
mercial Briton, with as much nimbleness as an elephant. 
British commerce is his deity, British advantage his duty 
and mission ; and he goes about his work with blunt dull- 
ness and ineptitude. That's his mental calibre as I read 
him — a dull, commercial man." 

Although Sir Lionel Carden had been compelled to 
harmonize himself with the American policy, Page re- 
garded his continued presence in Mexico City as a stand- 
ing menace to British- American relations. He there- 
fore set himself to accomplish the minister's removal. 
The failure of President Taft's attempt to obtain Car- 
den's transfer from Havana, in 1912, showed that Page's 
new enterprise was a delicate and difficult one; yet he 
did not hesitate. 

The part that the wives of diplomats and statesmen 
play in international relations is one that few Americans 
understand. Yet in London, the Ambassador's wife is 
almost as important a person as the Ambassador him- 
self. An event which now took place in the American 
Embassy emphasized this point. A certain lady, well 
known in London, called upon Mrs. Page and gave her 
a message on Mexican affairs for the Ambassador's 

215 



216 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

benefit. The purport was that the activities of certain 
British commercial interests in Mexico, if not checked, 
would produce a serious situation between Great Britain 
and the United States. The lady in question was herself 
a sincere worker for Anglo-American amity, and this 
was the motive that led her to take an unusual step. 

"It's all being done for the benefit of one man," she 
said. 

The facts were presented in the form of a memorandum, 
which Mrs. Page copied and gave the Ambassador. This, 
in turn, Page sent to President Wilson. 

To Edward M. House 

London, November 26, 1913. 
Dear House: 

Won't you read the enclosed and get it to the President? 
It is somewhat extra-official but it is very confidential, 
and I have a special reason for wishing it to go through 
your hands. Perhaps it will interest you. 

The lady that wrote it is one of the very best-informed 
women I know, one of those active and most influential 
women in the high political society of this Kingdom, 
at whose table statesmen and diplomats meet and im- 
portant things come to pass. . . . 

I am sure she has no motive but the avowed one. 
She has taken a liking to Mrs. Page and this is merely a 
friendly and patriotic act. 

I had heard most of the things before as gossip — never 
before as here put together by a responsible hand. 

Mrs. Page went to see her and, as evidence of our ap- 
preciation and safety, gave the original back to her. 
We have kept no copy, and I wish this burned, if you 
please. It would raise a riot here, if any breath of it 
were to get out, that would put bedlam to shame. 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 217 

Lord Cowdray has been to see me for four successive 
days. I have a suspicion (though I don't know) that, 
instead of his running the Government, the Government 
has now tinned the tables and is running him. His 
government contract is becoming a bad thing to sleep 
with. He told me this morning that he (through Lord 
Murray) had withdrawn the request for any concession 
in Colombia. 1 I congratulated him. "That, Lord Cow- 
dray, will save you as well as some other people I know 
a good deal of possible trouble." I have explained to 
him the whole New Principle in extenso, "so that you 
may see clearly where the line of danger runs." Lord! 
how he's changed! Several weeks ago when I ran across 
him accidentally he was humorous, almost cynical. Now 
he's very serious. I explained to him that the only thing 
that had kept South America from being parcelled out as 
Africa has been is the Monroe Doctrine and the United 
States behind it. He granted that. 

"In Monroe's time," said I, "the only way to take a 
part of South America was to take land. Now finance 
has new ways of its own!" 

"Perhaps," said he. 

"Right there," I answered, "where you put your 
'perhaps,' I put a danger signal. That, I assure you, 
you will read about in the histories as 'The Wilson 
Doctrine'!" 

You don't know how easy it all is with our friend and 
leader in command. I've almost grown bold. You feel 
steady ground beneath you. They are taking to their 
tents. 

"What's going to happen in Mexico City?" 

J This was another manifestation of British friendliness. When the American 
excitement was most acute, it became known that British capitalists had secured 
oil concessions in Colombia. At the demand of the British Government they 
gave them up. 



218 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"A peaceful tragedy, followed by emancipation." 
"And the great industries of Mexico?'* 
"They will not have to depend on adventurers' fa- 
vours!" 

"But in the meantime, what?" 
"Patience, looking towards justice!" 

Yours heartily and in health (you bet!) 

W. H. P. 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 
December 12, 1913. 
Dear Page: 

Your budget under dates, November 15th, 23rd, and 
26th came to me last week, just after the President had 
been here. I saved the letters until I went to Washington, 
from which place I have just returned. 

The President has been in bed for nearly a week and 
Doctor Grayson permitted no one to see him but me. 
Yesterday before I left he was feeling so well that I 
asked him if he did not want to feel better and then I 
read him your letters. Mrs. Wilson was present. 

I cannot tell you how pleased he was. He laughed re- 
peatedly at the different comments you made and he was 
delighted with what you had to say concerning Lord 
Cowdray. We do not love him for we think that be- 
tween Cowdray and Carden a large part of our troubles in 
Mexico has been made. Your description of his attitude 
at the beginning and his present one pleased us much. 

After I had read the confidential letter the President 
said "now let me see if I have the facts." He then re- 
cited them in consecutive order just as the English lady 
had written them, almost using the same phrases, show ing 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 219 

the well-trained mind that he has. I then dropped the 
letter in the grate. 

He enjoyed heartily the expression "Washington is a 
deep hole of silence towards ambassadors," and again 
"The volume of silence that I get is oppressive," and of 
course the story apropos of this last remark. 

I was with him for more than an hour and he was dis- 
tinctly better when I left. I hated to look at him in 
bed for I could not help realizing what his life means to 
the Democratic Party, to the Nation and almost to the 
world. 

Of course you know that I only read your letters to 
him. Mr. Bryan was my guest on Wednesday and I 
returned to Washington with him but I made no mention 
of our correspondence and I never have. The President 
seems to like our way of doing things and further than 
that I do not care. 

Upon my soul I do not believe the President could be 
better pleased than he is with the work you are doing. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

From now on the Ambassador exerted a round-about 
pressure — the method of "gradual approach" already re- 
ferred to — upon the Foreign Office for Carden's removal. 
An extract from a letter to the President gives a hint 
concerning this method : 

I have already worked upon Sir Edward's mind about 
his Minister to Mexico as far as I could. Now that the 
other matter is settled and while Carden is behaving, I 
go at it. Two years ago Mr. Knox made a bad blunder 
in protesting against Carden's " an ti- Americanism" in 
Cuba. Mr. Knox sent Mr. Reid no definite facts nor even 



220 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

accusations to base a protest on. The result was a failure 
— a bad failure. I have again asked Mr. Bryan for all 
the definite reports he has heard about Carden. That 
man, in my judgment, has caused nine tenths of the 
trouble here. 

Naturally Page did not ask the Minister's removal 
directly — that would have been an unpardonable blun- 
der. His meetings during this period with Sir Edward 
were taking place almost every day, and Carden, in 
one way or another, kept coming to the front in their 
conversation. Sir Edward, like Page, would sacrifice 
much in the cause of Anglo-American relations; Page 
would occasionally express his regret that the Brit- 
ish Minister to Mexico was not a man who shared 
their enthusiasm on this subject; in numerous other ways 
the impression was conveyed that the two countries 
could solve the Mexican entanglement much better if a 
more congenial person represented British interests in 
the Southern Republic. This reasoning evidently pro- 
duced the desired results. In early January, 1914, a 
hint was unofficially conveyed to the American Ambas- 
sador that Carden was to be summoned to London for 
a "conversation" with Sir Edward Grey, and that his 
return to Mexico would depend upon the outcome of that 
interview. There was a likelihood that, in future, Sir 
Lionel Carden would represent the British Empire in 
Brazil. 

This news, sent in discreet cipher to Washington, de- 
lighted the Administration. "It is fine about Carden," 
wrote Colonel House on January 10th. " I knew you had 
done it when I saw it in the papers, but I did not know just 
how. You could not have brought it about in a more 
diplomatic and effectual way." 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 221 

And the following came from the President: 

From President Wilson 

Pass Christian, 
January 6, 1914. 
My dear Page : 

I have your letter of December twenty-first, which I 
have greatly enjoyed. 

Almost at the very time I was reading it, the report 
came through the Associated Press from London that 
Carden was to be transferred immediately to Brazil. 
If this is true, it is indeed a most fortunate thing and I 
feel sure it is to be ascribed to your tactful and yet very 
plain representations to Sir Edward Grey. I do not 
think you realize how hard we worked to get from either 
Lind or O'Shaughnessy 1 definite items of speech or con- 
duct which we could furnish you as material for what you 
had to say to the Ministers about Carden. It simply 
was not obtainable. Everything that we got was at 
second or third hand. That he was working against 
us was too plain for denial, and yet he seems to have done 
it in a very astute way which nobody could take direct 
hold of. I congratulate you with all my heart on his 
transference. 

I long, as you do, for an opportunity to do constructive 
work all along the line in our foreign relations, particu- 
larly with Great Britain and the Latin-American states, 
but surely, my dear felloAv, you are deceiving yourself in 
supposing that constructive work is not now actually going 
on, and going on at your hands quite as much as at ours. 
The change of attitude and the growing ability to under- 
stand what we are thinking about and purposing on the 
part of the official circle in London is directly attributable 

'Mr. Nelson 0'Shaughne«sy, Charge d' Affaires in Mexico. 



222 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to what you have been doing, and I feel more and more 
grateful every day that you are our spokesman and in- 
terpreter there. This is the only possible constructive 
work in foreign affairs, aside from definite acts of policy. 

So far as the policy is concerned, you may be sure I 
will strive to the utmost to obtain both a repeal of the 
discrimination in the matter of tolls and a renewal of the 
arbitration treaties, and I am not without hope that I 
can accomplish both at this session. Indeed this is the 
session in which these things must be done if they are to 
be done at all. 

Back of the smile which came to my face when you 
spoke of the impenetrable silence of the State Department 
toward its foreign representatives lay thoughts of very 
serious concern. We must certainly manage to keep our 
foreign representatives properly informed. The real 
trouble is to conduct genuinely confidential correspond- 
ence except through private letters, but surely the thing 
can be changed and it will be if I can manage it. 

We are deeply indebted to you for your kindness and 
generous hospitality to our young folks 1 and we have 
learned with delight through your letters and theirs of 
their happy days in England. 

With deep regard and appreciation, 

Cordially and faithfully yours, 

Woodrow Wilson. 
Hon. Walter H. Page, 

American Embassy, 
London, England. 

Yet for the American Ambassador the experience was 
not one of unmixed satisfaction. These letters have 
contained references to the demoralized condition of the 



! Mr. and Mrs. Francis B. Sayre. 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 223 

State Department under Mr. Bryan and the succeeding 
ones will contain more; the Carden episode portrayed the 
stupidity and ignorance of that Department at their 
worst. By commanding Carden to cease his anti- 
American tactics and to support the American policy the 
Foreign Office had performed an act of the utmost 
courtesy and consideration to this country. By quietly 
"promoting" the same minister to another sphere, 
several thousand miles away from Mexico and Washing- 
ton, it was now preparing to eliminate all possible causes 
of friction between the two countries. The British, that 
is, had met the wishes of the United States in the two 
great matters that were then making serious trouble — 
Huerta and Carden. Yet no government, Great Britain 
least of all, wishes to be placed in the position of moving 
its diplomats about at the request of another Power. 
The whole deplorable story appears in the following 
letter. 

To Edward M. House 

January 8th, 1914. 
My dear House: 

Two days ago I sent a telegram to the Department 
saying that I had information from a private, unofficial 
source that the report that Carden would be transferred 
was true, and from another source that Marling would 
succeed him. The Government here has given out 
nothing. I know nothing from official sources. Of 
course the only decent thing to do at Washington was to 
sit still till this Government should see fit to make an 
announcement. But what do they do? Give my tele- 
gram to the press! It appears here almost verbatim in 
this morning's Mail. — I have to make an humiliating 
explanation to the Foreign Office. This is the third 



224 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

time I've had to make such an humiliating explanation 
to Sir Edward. It's getting a little monotonous. He's 
getting tired, and so am I. They now deny at the Foreign 
Office that anything has been decided about Carden, and 
this meddling by us (as they look at it) will surely cause 
a delay and may even cause a change of purpose. 

That's the practical result of their leaking at Washing- 
ton. On a previous occasion they leaked the same way. 
When I telegraphed a remonstrance, they telegraphed 
back to me that the leak had been here! That was the 
end of it — except that I had to explain to Sir Edward the 
best I could. And about a lesser matter, I did the same 
thing a third time, in a conversation. Three times this 
sort of thing has happened. — On the other hand, the 
King's Master of Ceremonies called on me on the Presi- 
dent's Birthday and requested for His Majesty that I 
send His Majesty's congratulations. Just ten days 
passed before a telegraphic answer came! The very 
hour it came, I was myself making up an answer for the 
President that I was going to send, to save our face. 

Now, I'm trying with all my might to do this job. I 
spend all my time, all my ingenuity, all my money at it. 
I have organized my staff as a sort of Cabinet. We meet 
every day. We go over everything conceivable that we 
may do or try to do. We do good team work. I am not 
sure but I doubt whether these secretaries have before 
been taken into just such a relation to their chief. They 
are enthusiastic and ambitious and industrious and — 
safe. There's no possibility of any leak. We arrange 
our dinners with reference to the possibility of getting 
information and of carrying points. Mrs. Page gives and 
accepts invitations with the same end in view. We're on 
the job to the very limit of our abilities. 

And I've got the Foreign Office in such a relation that 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 225 

they are frank and friendly. (I can't keep 'em so, if 
this sort of thing goes on.) 

Now the State Department seems (as it touches us) to 
be utterly chaotic — silent when it ought to respond, 
loquacious when it ought to be silent. There are ques- 
tions that I have put to it at this Government's request 
to which I can get no answer. 

It's hard to keep my staff enthusiastic under these 
conditions. When I reached the Chancery this morning, 
they were in my room, with all the morning papers 
marked, on the table, eagerly discussing what we ought 
to do about this publication of my dispatch. The en- 
thusiasm and buoyancy were all gone out of them. By 
their looks they said, " Oh ! what's the use of our bestirring 
ourselves to send news to Washington when they use it to 
embarrass us?" — While we are thus at work, the only 
two communications from the Department to-day are 
two letters from two of the Secretaries about — presenting 
"Democratic" ladies from Texas and Oklahoma at court! 
And Bryan is now lecturing in Kansas. 

Since I began to write this letter, Lord Cowdray came 
here to the house and stayed two and a half hours, talking 
about possible joint intervention in Mexico. Possibly 
he came from the Foreign Office. I don't know whether 
to dare send a despatch to the State Department, telling 
what he told me, for fear they'd leak. And to leak this — 
Good Lord ! Two of the Secretaries were here to dinner, 
and I asked them if I should send such a despatch. They 
both answered instantly: "No, sir, don't dare: write it 
to the President." I said: "No, I have no right to 
bother the President with regular business nor with fre- 
quent letters." To that they agreed; but the interesting 
and somewhat appalling thing is, they're actually afraid to 
have a confidential despatch go to the State Department. 



226 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

I see nothing to do but to suggest to the President to 
put somebody in the Department who will stay there and 
give intelligent attention to the diplomatic telegrams 
and letters — some conscientious assistant or clerk. For 
I hear mutterings, somewhat like these mutterings of 
mine, from some of the continental embassies.— The whole 
thing is disorganizing and demoralizing beyond descrip- 
tion. 

All these and more are my troubles. I'll take care of 
them. But remember what I am going to write on the 
next sheet. For here may come a trouble for you: 

Mrs. Page has learned something more about Secretary 
Bryan's proposed visit here in the spring. He's coming to 
talk his peace plan which, you know, is a sort of grape- 
juice arbitration — a distinct step backward from a real 
arbitration treaty. Well, if he comes with that, when you 
come to talk about reducing armaments, you'll wish 
you'd never been born. Get your ingenuity together, 
then, and prevent that visit. 1 

Not the least funny thing in the world is — Senator X 
turned up to-day. As he danced around the room beg- 
ging everybody's pardon (nobody knew what for) he 
complimented everybody in sight, explained the forged 
letter, dilated on state politics, set the Irish question on 
the right end, cleared Bacon 2 of all hostility to me, de- 
clined tea because he had insomnia and explained just- 
how it works to keep you awake, danced more and de- 
clared himself happy and bowed himself out — well 
pleased. He's as funny a cuss as I've seen in many a day. 
Lord Cowdray, who was telling Mexican woes to Katha- 
rine in the corner, looked up and asked, "Who's the little 

1 Colonpl House succeeded in preventing it. 

2 Senator Augustus O. Bacon, of Georgia who was reported to nourish ill-feeling 
toward Page for his authorship of " The Southerner." 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 227 

dancing gentleman? " Suppose X had known he was 
dancing for — Lord Cowdray's amusement, what do y' sup- 
pose he'd 've thought? There are some strange com- 
binations in our house on Mrs. Page's days at home. 
Cowdray has, I am sure, lost (that is, failed to make) a 
hundred million dollars that he had within easy reach by 
this Wilson Doctrine, but he's game. He doesn't he 
awake. He's a dead-game sport, and he knows he's 
knocked out in that quarter and he doesn't squeal. His 
experiences will serve us many a good turn in the future — 
as a warning. I rather like him. He eats out of my 
hand in the afternoon and has one of his papers jump on 
me in the morning. Some time in the twenty-four hours, 
he must attain about the normal temperature — say 
about noon. He admires the President greatly — sin- 
cerely. Force meets force, you see. With the President 
behind me I could really enjoy Cowdray centuries after 
X had danced himself into oblivion. 

By the way, Cowdray said to me to-day: "Whatever 
the United States and Great Britain agree on the world 
must do." He's right. (1) The President must come 
here, perhaps in his second term; (2) these two Govern- 
ments must enter a compact for peace and for gradual 
disarmament. Then we can go about our business for 

(say) a hundred years. TT „ 

Heartily, w R p 

In spite of the continued pressure of the United States 
and the passive support of its anti-Huerta policy by 
Great Britain, the Mexican usurper refused to resign. 
President Wilson now began to espouse the interests of 
Villa and Carranza. His letters to Page indicate that 
he took these men at their own valuation, believed that 
they were sincere patriots working for the cause of 



228 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"democracy" and "constitutionalism" and that their tri- 
umph would usher in a day of enlightenment and progress 
for Mexico. It was the opinion of the Foreign Office 
that Villa and Carranza were worse men than Huerta 
and that any recognition of their revolutionary activities 
would represent no moral gain. 

From the President 

The White House, Washington, 
May 18, 1914. 
My dear Page: 

. . . As to the attitude of mind on that side of the 
water toward the Constitutionalists, it is based upon preju- 
dices which cannot be sustained by the facts. I am enclos- 
ing a copy of an interview by a Mr. Reid 1 which appeared 
in one of the afternoon papers recently and which sums up 
as well as they could be summed up my own conclusions 
with regard to the issues and the personnel of the pend- 
ing contest in Mexico. I can verify it from a hundred 
different sources, most of them sources not in the least 
touched by predilections for such men as our friends in 
London have supposed Carranza and Villa to be. 

Cordially and faithfully yours, 

Woodrow Wilson. 
Hon. Walter H. Page, 
U. S. Embassy, 
London, England. 

The White House, Washington, 
June 1, 1914. 
My dear Page: 

. . . The fundamental thing is that they (British 
critics of Villa) are all radically mistaken. There has 

iProbably an error for John Reed, at that time a newspaper correspondent in 
Mexico — afterward well known as a champion of the Bolshevist regime in Russia. 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 229 

been less disorder and less danger to life where the Con- 
stitutionalists have gained control than there has been 
where Huerta is in control. I should think that if they 
are getting correct advices from Tampico, people in 
England would be very much enlightened by what has 
happened there. Before the Constitutionalists took the 
place there was constant danger to the oil properties 
and to foreign residents. Now there is no danger 
and the men who felt obliged to leave the oil wells to 
their Mexican employees are returning, to find, by 
the way, that their Mexican employees guarded them 
most faithfully without wages, and in some instances 
almost without food. I am told that the Constitution- 
alists cheered the American flag when they entered Tam- 
pico. 

I believe that Mexico City will be much quieter and a 
much safer place to live in after the Constitutionalists 
get there than it is now. The men who are approaching 
and are sure to reach it are much less savage and much 
more capable of government than Huerta. 

These, I need not tell you, are not fancies of mine but 
conclusions I have drawn from facts which are at last 
becoming very plain and palpable, at least to us on this 
side of the water. If they are not becoming plain in 
Great Britain, it is because their papers are not serving 
them with the truth. Our own papers were prejudiced 
enough in all conscience against Villa and Carranza and 
everything that was happening in the north of Mexico, 
but at last the light is dawning on them in spite of them- 
selves and they are beginning to see things as they really 
are. I would be as nervous and impatient as your 
friends in London are if I feared the same things that they 
fear, but I do not. I am convinced that even Zapata 
would restrain his followers and leave, at any rate, all 



230 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

foreigners and all foreign property untouched if he were 
the first to enter Mexico City. 

Cordially and faithfully yours, 

Woodrow Wilson. 
Hon. Walter H. Page, 
American Embassy, 
London, England. 

On this issue, however, the President and his Ambas- 
sador to Great Britain permanently disagreed. The 
events which took place in April, 1914 — the insult to the 
American flag at Tampico, the bombardment and capture 
of Vera Cruz by American forces — made stronger Page's 
conviction, already set forth in this correspondence, that 
there was only one solution of the Mexican problem. 

To Edward M. House 

April 27, 1914. 
Dear House: 

. . . And, as for war with Mexico — I confess I've 
had a continually growing fear of it for six months. I've 
no confidence in the Mexican leaders — none of 'em. We 
shall have to Cuba-ize the country, which means thrash- 
ing 'em first — I fear, I fear, I fear; and I feel sorry for us 
all, the President in particular. It's inexpressibly hard 
fortune for him. I can't tell you with what eager fear 
we look for despatches every day and twice a day hurry 
to get the newspapers. All England believes we've got 
to fight it out. 

Well, the English are with us, you see. Admiral 
Cradock, I understand, does not approve our policy, but 
he stands firmly with us whatever we do. The word to 
stand firmly with us has, I am very sure, been passed 
along the whole line — naval, newspaper, financial, dip- 



PERSONALITIES OF THE MEXICAN PROBLEM 231 

iomatic. Garden won't give us any more trouble during 
the rest of his stay in Mexico. The yellow press's abuse 
of the President and me has actually helped us here. 

Heartily yours, 

W H. P. 



CHAPTER VIII 

HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 

IN THE early part of January, 1914, Colonel House 
wrote Page, asking whether he would consider favour- 
ably an offer to enter President Wilson's Cabinet, as 
Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. David F. Houston, who 
was then most acceptably filling that position, was also 
an authority on banking and finance; the plan was to 
make him governor of the new Federal Reserve Board, 
then in process of formation, and to transfer Page to the 
vacant place in the Cabinet. The proposal was not 
carried through, but Page's reply took the form of a re- 
view of his ambassadorship up to date, of his vexations, 
his embarrassments, his successes, and especially of the 
very important task which still lay before him. There 
were certain reasons, it will appear, why he would have 
liked to leave London; and there was one impelling reason 
why he preferred to stay. From the day of his arrival 
in England, Page had been humiliated, and his work had 
been constantly impeded, by the almost studied neglect 
with which Washington treated its diplomatic service. 
The fact that the American Government provided no 
official residence for its Ambassador, and no adequate 
financial allowance for maintaining the office, had made 
his position almost an intolerable one. All Page's pre- 
decessors for twenty-five years had been rich men who 
could advance the cost of the Embassy from their own 
private purses; to meet these expenses, however, Page 
had been obliged to encroach on the savings of a life- 

232 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 233 

time, and such liberality on his part necessarily had its 
limitations. 

To Edward M. House 

London, England, 
February 13, 1914. 
My dear House: 

. . . Of course I am open to the criticism of having 
taken the place at all. But I was both uninformed and 
misinformed about the cost as well as about the frightful 
handicap of having no Embassy. It's a kind of scandal 
in London and it has its serious effect. Everybody talks 
about it all the time: "Will you explain to me why it is 
that your great Government has no Embassy: it's very 
odd ! " " What a frugal Government you have ! " " It 's a 
damned mean outfit, your American Government." Mrs. 
Page collapses many an evening when she gets to her room. 
" If they'd only quit talking about it ! " The other Ambas- 
sadors, now that we're coming to know them fairly well, 
commiserate us. It's a constant humiliation. Of course 
this aspect of it doesn't worry me much — I've got hard- 
ened to it. But it is a good deal of a real handicap, and 
it adds that much dead weight that a man must over- 
come; and it greatly lessens the respect in which our 
Government and its Ambassador are held. If I had 
known this fully in advance, I should not have had the 
courage to come here. Now, of course, I've got used 
to it, have discounted it, and can "bull" it through — 
could "bull" it through if I could afford to pay the bill. 
But I shouldn't advise any friend of mine to come here 
and face this humiliation without realizing precisely what 
it means — wholly apart, of course, from the cost of 
it. . . . 

My dear House, on the present basis much of the. dip- 



234 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

lomatic business is sheer humbug. It will always be so 
till we have our own Embassies and an established posi- 
tion in consequence. Without a home or a house or a 
fixed background, every man has to establish his own posi- 
tion for himself; and unless he be unusual, this throws 
him clean out of the way of giving emphasis to the right 
things. . . . 

As for our position, I think I don't fool myself. The 
job at the Foreign Office is easy because there is no real 
trouble between us, and because Sir Edward Grey is 
pretty nearly an ideal man to get on with. I think he 
likes me, too, because, of course, I'm straightforward and 
frank with him, and he likes the things we stand for. 
Outside this official part of the job, of course, we're com- 
monplace — a successful commonplace, I hope. But that's 
all. We don't know how to try to be anything but what 
we naturally are. I dare say we are laughed at here and 
there about this and that. Sometimes I hear criticisms, 
now and then more or less serious ones. Much of it 
comes of our greenness; some of it from the very nature 
of the situation. Those who expect to find us brilliant 
are, of course, disappointed. Nor are we smart, and the 
smart set (both American and English) find us uninter- 
esting. But we drive ahead and keep a philosophical 
temper and simply do the best we can, and, you may be 
sure, a good deal of it. It is laborious. For instance, 
I've made two trips lately to speak before important 
bodies, one at Leeds, the other at Newcastle, at both 
of which, in different ways, I have tried to explain the 
President's principle in dealing with Central American 
turbulent states— and, incidentally, the American ideals 
of government. The audiences see it, approve it, ap- 
plaud it. The newspaper editorial writers never quite 
go the length— it involves a denial of the divine right of 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 235 

the British Empire; at least they fear so. The fewest 
possible Englishmen really understand our governmental 
aims and ideals. I have delivered unnumbered and in- 
numerable little speeches, directly or indirectly, about 
them; and they seem to like them. But it would take 
an army of oratorical ambassadors a lifetime to get the 
idea into the heads of them all. In some ways they are 
incredibly far back in mediae valism — incredibly. 

If I have to leave in the fall or in December, it will be 
said and thought that I've failed, unless there be some 
reason that can be made public. I should be perfectly 
willing to tell the reason — the failure of the Government 
to make it financially possible. I've nothing to conceal 
— only definite amounts. I'd never say what it has cost 
— only that it costs more than I or anybody but a rich 
man can afford. If then, or in the meantime, the Presi- 
dent should wish me to serve elsewhere, that would, of 
course, be a sufficient reason for my going. 

Now another matter, with which I shall not bother the 
President — he has enough to bear on that score. It was 
announced in one of the London papers the other day 
that Mr. Bryan would deliver a lecture here, and prob- 
ably in each of the principal European capitals, on Peace. 
Now, God restrain me from saying, much more from 
doing, anything rash. But if I've got to go home at all, 
I'd rather go before he comes. It'll take years for the 
American Ambassadors to recover what they'll lose if 
he carry out this plan. They now laugh at him here. 
Only the President's great personality saves the situation 
in foreign relations. Of course the public here doesn't 
know how utterly unorganized the State Department is — 
how we can't get answers to important questions, and 
how they publish most secret despatches or allow them to 
leak out. But "bad breaks" like this occur. Mr. Z, 



236 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

of the lOO-years'-Peace Committee, 1 came here a week 
ago, with a letter from Bryan to the Prime Minister ! Z told 
me that this 100-year business gave a chance to bind the 
nations together that ought not to be missed. Hence Bryan 
had asked him to take up the relations of the countries 
with the Prime Minister! Bryan sent a telegram to Z 
to be read at a big 100-year meeting here. As for the 
personal indignity to me — I overlook that. I don't think 
he means it. But if he doesn't mean it, what does he mean ? 
That's what the Prime Minister asks himself. Fortunately 
Mr. Asquith and I get along mighty well. He met Bryan 
once, and he told me with a smile that he regarded him as 
" a peculiar product of your country." But the Secretary 
is always doing things like this. He dashes off letters of 
introduction to people asking me to present them to Mr. 
Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, etc. 

In the United States we know Mr. Bryan. We know 
his good points, his good services, his good intentions. 
We not only tolerate him; we like him. But when he 
comes here as "the American Prime Minister" 2 — good- 
bye, John! All that we've tried to do to gain respect for 
our Government (as they respect our great nation) will 
disappear in one day. Of course they'll feel obliged to 
give him big official dinners, etc. And 

Now you'd just as well abandon your trip if he comes; 
and (I confess) I'd rather be gone. No member of an- 
other government ever came here and lectured. T. R. 
did it as a private citizen, and even then he split the 
heavens asunder. 3 Most Englishmen will regard it as a 

iThe Committee to celebrate the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of 
Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. The plan to make this an elaborate com- 
memoration of a 100 years' peace between the English-speaking peoples was upset 
by the outbreak of the World War. 

2This was the designation Mr. Bryan's admirers sometimes gave him. 

3 The reference is to President Roosevelt's speech at the Guildhall in June, 1910. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 237 

piece of effrontery. Of course, I'm not in the least con- 
cerned about mere matters of taste. It's only the bigger 
effects that I have in mind in queering our Government in 
their eyes. He must be kept at home on the Mexican 
problem, or some other. 

Yours faithfully, 

Walter H. Page. 

P. S. But, by George, it's a fine game! This Govern- 
ment and ours are standing together all right, especially 
since the President has taken hold of our foreign relations 
himself. With such a man at the helm at home, we can 
do whatever we wish to do with the English, as I've often 
told you. (But it raises doubts every time the shoe- 
string necktie, broad-brimmed black hat, oratorical, old- 
time, River Platte kind of note is heard.) We've come 
a long way in a year — a very joyful long way, full of 
progress and real understanding; there's no doubt about 
that. A year ago they knew very well the failure that 
had saddled them with the tolls trouble and the failure 
of arbitration, and an unknown President had just come 
in. Presently an unknown Ambassador arrived. Mexico 
got worse; would we not recognize Huerta? They send 
Carden. We had nothing to say about the tolls — simply 
asked for time. They were very friendly; but our slang 
phrase fits the situation — "nothin' doin'." They declined 
San Francisco. 1 Then presently they began to see some 
plan in Mexico; they began to see our attitude on the 
tolls; they began to understand our attitude toward con- 
cessions and governments run for profit ; they began dimly 
to see that Carden was a misfit; the Tariff Bill passed; 
the Currency Bill; the President loomed up; even the 

^his refers to the declination of the British Government to be represented at 
the San Francisco world exhibition, held in 1915. 



238 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE • 

% i 

Ambassador, they said, really believed what he preached ; 
he wasn't merely making pretty, friendly speeches. — Now, 
when we get this tolls job done, we've got 'em where we 
can do any proper and reasonable thing we want. It's 
been a great three quarters of a year — immense, in fact. 
No man has been in the White House who is so regarded 
since Lincoln ; in fact, they didn't regard Lincoln while he 
lived. 

Meantime, I've got to be more or less at home. The 
Prime Minister dines with me, the Foreign Secretary, the 
Archbishop, the Colonial Secretary — all the rest of 'em; 
the King talks very freely ; Mr. Asquith tells me some of 
his troubles; Sir Edward is become a good personal friend; 
Lord Bryce warms up ; the Lord Chancellor is chummy ; 
and so it goes. 

So you may be sure we are all in high feather after all ; 
and the President's (I fear exaggerated) appreciation of 
what I've done is very gratifying indeed. I've got only 
one emotion about it all— gratitude ; and gratitude begets 
eagerness to go on. Of course I can do future jobs better 
than I have done any past ones. 

There are two shadows in the background — not dis- 
turbing, but shadows none the less : 

1. The constant reminder that the American Am- 
bassador's homeless position (to this Government and to 
this whole people) shows that the American Government 
and the American people know nothing about foreign 
relations and care nothing — regard them as not worth 
buying a house for. This leaves a doubt about any con- 
tinuity of any American policy. It even suggests a sort 
of fear that we don't really care. 

The other is (2) the dispiriting experience of writing 
and telegraphing about important things and never hear- 
ing a word concerning many of them, and the consequent 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 239 

fear of some dead bad break in the State Department. 

The clubs are full of stories of the silly and incredible 

things that are said to happen there. 

After all, these are old troubles. They are not new — 

neither of them. And we are the happiest group you 

ever saw. 

W. H. P. 

Page's letters of this period contain many references to 
his inability to maintain touch with the State Department. 
His letters remained unacknowledged, his telegrams un- 
answered ; and he was himself left completely in the dark 
as to the plans and opinions at Washington. 

To Edward M. House 

February 28, 1914. 
Dear House : 

. . . Couldnt the business with Great Britain be put 
into Moore's 1 hands? It is surely important enough at 
times to warrant separate attention — or (I might say) 
attention. You know, after eight or nine months of this 
sort of thing, the feeling grows on us all here that perhaps 
many of our telegrams and letters may not be read by 
anybody at all. You begin to feel that they may not be 
deciphered or even opened. Then comes the feeling 
(for a moment), why send any more? Why do anything 
but answer such questions as come now and then? Cor- 
responding with Nobody — can you imagine how that 
feels? — What the devil do you suppose does become of the 
letters and telegrams that I send, from which and about 
which I never hear a word? As a mere matter of curi- 
osity I should like to know who receives them and what 
he does with them! 

1 John Bassett Moore, at that time the very able counsellor of the State Depart- 
ment. 



240 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

I've a great mind some day to send a despatch saying 
that an earthquake has swallowed up the Thames, that 
a suffragette has kissed the King, and that the statue of 
Cromwell has made an assault on the House of Lords — 
just to see if anybody deciphers it. 

After the Civil War an old fellow in Virginia was tired 
of the world. He'd have no more to do with it. He 
cut a slit in a box in his house and nailed up the box. 
Whenever a letter came for him, he'd read the postmark 
and say "Baltimore — Baltimore — there isn't anybody in 
Baltimore that I care to hear from." Then he'd drop 
the letter unopened through the slit into the box. " Phil- 
adelphia? I have no friend in Philadelphia" — into the 
box, unopened. When he died, the big box was nearly 
full of miopened letters. When I get to Washington 
again, I'm going to look for a big box that must now be 
nearly full of my unopened letters and telegrams. 

W. H. P. 

The real reason why the Ambassador wished to remain 
in London was to assist in undoing a great wrong which 
the United States had done itself and the world. Page 
was attempting to perform his part in introducing new 
standards into diplomacy. His discussions of Mexico 
had taken the form of that "idealism" which he was ap- 
parently having some difficulty in persuading British 
statesmen and the British public to accept. He was 
doing his best to help bring about that day when, in 
Gladstone's famous words, "the idea of public right would 
be the governing idea" of international relations. But 
while the American Ambassador was preaching this new 
conception, the position of his own country on one im- 
portant matter was a constant impediment to his efforts. 
Page was continually confronted by the fact that the 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 241 

United States, high-minded as its foreign policy might 
pretend to be, was far from "idealistic" in the observance 
of the treaty that it had made with Great Britain con- 
cerning the Panama Canal. There was a certain em- 
barrassment involved in preaching unselfishness in Mex- 
ico and Central America at a time when the United States 
was practising selfishness and dishonesty in Panama. 
For, in the opinion of the Ambassador and that of most 
other dispassionate students of the Panama treaty, the 
American policy on Panama tolls amounted to nothing 
less. 

To one unskilled in legal technicalities, the Panama 
controversy involved no great difficulty. Since 1850 the 
United States and Great Britain had had a written under- 
standing upon the construction of the Panama Canal. 
The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which was adopted that year, 
provided that the two countries should share equally in 
the construction and control of the proposed waterway 
across the Isthmus. This idea of joint control had always 
rankled in the United States, and in 1901 the American 
Government persuaded Great Britain to abrogate the 
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and agree to another — the Hay- 
Pauncefote — which transferred the rights of ownership 
and construction exclusively to this country. In con- 
senting to this important change, Great Britain had made 
only one stipulation. "The Canal," so read Article III 
of the Convention of 1901, "shall be free and open to 
the vessels of commerce and war of all nations observing 
these rules, on terms of entire equality, so that there 
shall be no discrimination against any such nation, or its 
citizens or subjects, in respect of the conditions or charges 
of traffic, or otherwise." It would seem as though the 
English language could utter no thought more clearly 
than this. The agreement said, not inferentially, but in 



242 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

so many words, that the "charges" levied on the ships 
of "all nations" that used the Canal should be the same. 
The history of British- American negotiations on the sub- 
ject of the Canal had always emphasized this same point. 
All American witnesses to drawing the Treaty have testi- 
fied that this was the American understanding. The 
correspondence of John Hay, who was Secretary of 
State at the time, makes it clear that this was the agree- 
ment. Mr. Elihu Root, who, as Secretary of War, sat 
next to John Hay in the Cabinet which authorized the 
treaty, has taken the same stand. The man who con- 
ducted the preliminary negotiations with Lord Salisbury, 
Mr. Henry White, has emphasized the same point. Mr. 
Joseph H. Choate, who, as American Ambassador to 
Great Britain in 1901, had charge of the negotiations, 
has testified that the British and American Governments 
"meant what they said and said what they meant." 

In the face of this solemn understanding, the American 
Congress, in 1912, passed the Panama Canal Act, which 
provided that "no tolls shall be levied upon vessels en- 
gaged in the coastwise trade of the United States." A 
technical argument, based upon the theory that "all 
nations" did not include the United States, and that, 
inasmuch as this country had obtained sovereign rights 
upon the Isthmus, the situation had changed, persuaded 
President Taft to sign this bill. Perhaps this line of 
reasoning satisfied the legal consciences of President 
Taft and Mr. Knox, his Secretary of State, but it really 
cut little figure in the acrimonious discussion that en- 
sued. Of course, there was only one question involved ; 
that was as to whether the exemption violated the Treaty. 
This is precisely the one point that nearly all the con- 
troversialists avoided. The statement that the United 
States had built the Canal with its own money and its 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 243 

own genius, that it had achieved a great success where 
other nations had achieved a great failure, and that it 
had the right of passing its own ships through its own 
highway without assessing tolls — this was apparently ar- 
gument enough. When Great Britain protested the exemp- 
tion as a violation of the Treaty, there were not lacking 
plenty of elements in American politics and journalism 
to denounce her as committing an act of high-handed 
impertinence, as having intruded herself in matters which 
were not properly her concern, and as having attempted 
to rob the American public of the fruits of its own enter- 
prise. That animosity to Great Britain, which is always 
present in certain parts of the hyphenated population, 
burst into full flame. 

Clear as were the legal aspects of the dispute, the po- 
sition of the Wilson Administration was a difficult one. 
The Irish- American elements, which have specialized in 
making trouble between the United States and Great 
Britain, represented a strength to the Democratic Party 
in most large cities. The great mass of Democratic 
Senators and Congressmen had voted for the exemption 
bill. The Democratic platform of 1912 had endorsed 
this same legislation. This declaration was the handi- 
work of Senator O'Gorman, of New York State, who had 
long been a leader of the anti-British crusade in American 
politics. More awkward still, President Wilson, in the 
course of his Presidential campaign, had himself spoken 
approvingly of free tolls for American ships. The prob- 
ability is that, when the President made this unfortunate 
reference to this clause in the Democratic programme, he 
had given the matter little personal investigation; it 
must be held to his credit that, when the facts were clearly 
presented to him, his mind quickly grasped the real point 
at issue — that it was not a matter of commercial advan- 



244 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

tage or disadvantage, but one simply of national honour, 
of whether the United States proposed to keep its word or 
to break it. 

Page's contempt for the hair-drawn technicalities of 
lawyers was profound, and the tortuous effort to make the 
Hay-Pauncefote Treaty mean something quite different 
from what it said, inevitably moved him to righteous 
wrath. Before sailing for England he spent several 
days in the State Department studying the several 
questions that were then at issue between his country 
and Great Britain. A memorandum contains his im- 
pressions of the free tolls contention: 

"A little later I went to Washington again to acquaint 
myself with the business between the United States and 
Great Britain. About that time the Senate confirmed 
my appointment, and I spent a number of days reading 
the recent correspondence between the two governments. 
The two documents that stand out in my memory are the 
wretched lawyer's note of Knox about the Panama tolls 
(I never read a less sincere, less convincing, more purely 
artificial argument) and Bryce's brief reply, which did 
have the ring of sincerity in it. The diplomatic cor- 
respondence in general seemed to me very dull stuff, and, 
after wading through it all day, on several nights as I 
went to bed the thought came to me whether this sort of 
activity were really worth a man's while." 

Anything which affected British shipping adversely 
touched Great Britain in a sensitive spot; and Page had 
not been long in London before he perceived the acute 
nature of the Panama situation. In July, 1913, Col. 
Edward M. House reached the British capital. A let- 
ter of Page's to Sir Edward Grey gives such a succinct 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 245 

description of this new and influential force in American 
public life that it is worth quoting: 

To Sir Edward Grey 

Coburg Hotel, London. 
[No date.] 

Dear Sir Edward : 

There is an American gentleman in London, the like 
of whom I do not know. Mr. Edward M. House is his 
name. He is "the silent partner" of President Wilson— 
that is to say, he is the most trusted political adviser and 
the nearest friend of the President. He is a private 
citizen, a man without personal political ambition, a 
modest, quiet, even shy fellow. He helps to make Cabi- 
nets, to shape policies, to select judges and ambassadors 
and suchlike merely for the pleasure of seeing that these 
tasks are well done. 

He is suffering from over-indulgence in advising, and 
he has come here to rest. I cannot get him far outside 
his hotel, for he cares to see few people. But he is very 
eager to meet you. 

I wonder if you would do me the honour to take lunch- 
eon at the Coburg Hotel with me, to meet him either on 
July 1, or 3, or 5 — if you happen to be free? I shall 
have only you and Mr. House. 

Very sincerely yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

The chief reason why Colonel House wished to meet 
the British Foreign Secretary was to bring him a message 
from President Wilson on the subject of the Panama 
tolls. The tliree men— Sir Edward, Colonel House, and 
Mr. Page— met at the suggested luncheon on July 3rd. 



246 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Colonel House informed the Foreign Secretary that Presi- 
dent Wilson was now convinced that the Panama Act vio- 
lated the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty and that he intended to 
use all his influence to secure its repeal. The matter, the 
American urged, was a difficult one, since it would be 
necessary to persuade Congress to pass a law acknowl- 
edging its mistake. The best way in which Great Britain 
could aid in the process was by taking no public action. 
If the British should keep protesting or discussing the 
subject acrimoniously in the press and Parliament, such 
a course would merely reenforce the elements that would 
certainly oppose the President. Any protests would 
give them the opportunity to set up the cry of "British 
dictation," and a change in the Washington policy would 
subject it to the criticism of having yielded to British 
pressure. The inevitable effect would be to defeat the 
whole proceeding. Colonel House therefore suggested 
that President Wilson be left to handle the matter in his 
own way and in his own time, and he assured the British 
statesman that the result would be satisfactory to both 
countries. Sir Edward Grey at once saw that Colonel 
House's statement of the matter was simply common 
sense, and expressed his willingness to leave the Panama 
matter in the President's hands. 

Thus, from July 3, 1913, there was a complete under-* 
standing between the British Government and the Wash- 
ington Administration on the question of the tolls. But 
neither the British nor the American public knew that 
President Wilson had pledged himself to a policy of 
repeal. All during the summer and fall of 1913 this 
matter was as generally discussed in England as was 
Mexico. Everywhere the Ambassador went — country 
houses, London dinner tables, the colleges and the clubs — 
he was constantly confronted with what was universally 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 247 

regarded as America's great breach of faith. How deeply 
he felt in the matter his letters show. 

To Edward M. House 

August 25, 1913. 
Dear House: 

. . . The English Government and the English 

people without regard to party — I hear it and feel it 

everywhere — are of one mind about this: they think we 

have acted dishonourably. They really think so — it 

isn't any mere political or diplomatic pretense. We 

made a bargain, they say, and we have repudiated it. 

If it were a mere bluff or game or party contention — 

that would be one thing. We could "bull" it through 

or live it down. But they look upon it as we look upon 

the repudiation of a debt by a state. Whatever the 

arguments by which the state may excuse itself, we never 

feel the same toward it — never quite so safe about it. 

They say, "You are a wonderful nation and a wonderful 

people. We like you. But your Government is not a 

government of honour. Your honourable men do not 

seem to get control." You can't measure the damage 

that this does us. Whatever the United States may 

propose till this is fixed and forgotten will be regarded 

with a certain hesitancy. They will not fully trust the 

honour of our Government. They say, too, "See, you've 

preached arbitration and you propose peace agreements, 

and yet you will not arbitrate this: you know you are 

wrong, and this attitude proves it." Whatever Mr. 

Hay might or could have done, he made a bargain. The 

Senate ratified it. We accepted it. Whether it were a 

good bargain or a bad one, we ought to keep it. The 

English feeling was shown just the other week when 

Senator Root received an honourary degree at Oxford. 



248 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

The thing that gave him fame here was his speech on this 
treaty. 1 There is no end of ways in which they show 
their feeling and conviction. 

Now, if in the next regular session the President takes 
a firm stand against the ship subsidy that this discrimi- 
nation gives, couldn't Congress be carried to repeal this 
discrimination? For this economic objection also exists. 

No Ambassador can do any very large constructive 
piece of work so long as this suspicion of the honour of 
our Government exists. Sir Edward Grey will take it 
up in October or November. If I could say then that 
the President will exert all his influence for this repeal — 
that would go far. If, when he takes it up, I can say 
nothing, it will be practically useless for me to take up 
any other large plan. This is the most important thing 
for us on the diplomatic horizon. 

To the President 

Dornoch, Scotland, 
September 10, 1913. 
Dear Mr. President: 

I am spending ten or more of the dog days visiting the 
Englishman and the Scotchman in their proper setting — 
their country homes — where they show themselves the 
best of hosts and reveal their real opinions. There are, 
for example, in the house where I happen to be to-day, 
the principals of three of the Scotch universities, and a 
Member of Parliament, and an influential editor. 

They have, of course — I mean all the educated folk I 
meet — the most intelligent interest in American affairs, 
and they have an unbounded admiration for the American 
people — their energy, their resourcefulness, their wealth, 

J Mr. Root's masterly speech on Panama tolls was made in the United States 
Senate. January 21, 1913. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 249 

their economic power and social independence. I think 
that no people ever really admired and, in a sense, envied 
another people more. They know we hold the keys of 
the future. 

But they make a sharp distinction between our people 
and our Government. They are sincere, God-fearing 
people who speak their convictions. They cite Tam- 
many, the Thaw case, Sulzer, the Congressional lobby, 
and sincerely regret that a democracy does not seem to be 
able to justify itself. I am constantly amazed and some- 
times dumbfounded at the profound effect that the yellow 
press (including the American correspondents of the 
English papers) has had upon the British mind. Here is 
a most serious journalistic problem, upon which I have 
already begun to work seriously with some of the editors 
of the better London papers. But it is more than a 
journalistic problem. It becomes political. To eradi- 
cate this impression will take years of well-planned work. 
I am going to make this the subject of one of the dozen 
addresses that I must deliver during the next six months 
— "The United States as an Example of Honest and 
Honourable Government." 

And everywhere — in circles the most friendly to us, 
and the best informed — I receive commiseration because 
of the dishonourable attitude of our Government about 
the Panama Canal tolls. This, I confess, is hard to 
meet. We made a bargain — a solemn compact — and we 
have broken it. Whether it were a good bargain or a 
bad one, a silly one or a wise one; that's far from the 
point. Isn't it? I confess that this bothers me. . . . 

And this Canal tolls matter stands in the way of every- 
thing. It is in their minds all the time — the minds of 
all parties and all sections of opinion. They have no 
respect for Mr. Taft, for they remember that he might 



250 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

have vetoed the bill; and they ask, whenever they dare, 
what you will do about it. They hold our Government 
in shame so long as this thing stands. 

As for the folly of having made such a treaty — that's 
now passed. As for our unwillingness to arbitrate it — 
that's taken as a confession of guilt. . . . 

We can command these people, this Government, this 
tight island, and its world-wide empire; they honour us, 
they envy us, they see the time near at hand when we 
shall command the capital and the commerce of the 
world if we unfetter our mighty people; they wish to 
keep very close to us. But they are suspicious of our 
Government because, they contend, it has violated its 
faith. Is it so or is it not? 

Life meantime is brimful of interest; and, despite this 
reflex result of the English long-blunder with Ireland 
(how our sins come home to roost), the Great Republic 
casts its beams across the whole world and I was never 
so proud to be an American democrat, as I see it light 
this hemisphere in a thousand ways. 

All health and mastery to you! 

Walter H. Page. 



The story of Sir William Tyrrell's 1 visit to the White 
House in November, 1913, has already been told. On 
this occasion, it will be recalled, not only was an agree- 
ment reached on Mexico, but President Wilson also 
repeated the assurances already given by Colonel House 
on the repeal of the tolls legislation. Now that Great 
Britain had accepted the President's leadership in Mex- 
ico, the time was approaching when President Wilson 
might be expected to take his promised stand on Panama 

1 Ante: page 202. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 251 

tolls. Yet it must be repeated that there had been no 
definite diplomatic bargain. But Page was exerting all 
his efforts to establish the best relations between the two 
countries on the basis of fair dealing and mutual respect. 
Great Britain had shown her good faith in the Mexican 
matter; now the turn of the United States had come. 



To the President 

London, 6 Grosvenor Square. 
January 6, 1914. 
Dear Mr. President: 

We've travelled a long way since this Mexican trouble 
began — a long way with His Majesty's Government. 
When your policy was first flung at 'em, they showed 
at best a friendly incredulity: what! set up a moral 
standard for government in Mexico? Everybody's mind 
was fixed merely on the restoring of order — the safety 
of investments. They thought of course our army would 
go down in a few weeks. I recall that Sir Edward Grey 
asked me one day if you would not consult the European 
governments about the successor to Huerta, speaking of 
it as a problem that would come up next week. And 
there was also much unofficial talk about joint inter- 
vention. 

Well, they've followed a long way. They apologized 
for Carden (that's what the Prime Minister's speech was) ; 
they ordered him to be more prudent. Then the real 
meaning of concessions began to get into their heads. 
They took up the dangers that lurked in the Govern- 
ment's contract with Cowdray for oil; and they pulled 
Cowdray out of Colombia and Nicaragua — granting the 
application of the Monroe Doctrine to concessions that 
might imperil a country's autonomy. Then Sir Edward 



252 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

asked me if you would not consult him about such con- 
cessions — a long way had been travelled since his other 
question! Lord Haldane made the Thanksgiving speech 
that I suggested to him. And now they have transferred 
Carden. They've done all we asked and more; and, 
more wonderful yet, they've come to understand what 
we are driving at. 

As tins poor world goes, all this seems to me rather 
handsomely done. At any rate, it's square and it's 

friendly. 

Now in diplomacy, as in other contests, there must be 
give and take; it's our turn. 

If you see your way clear, it would help the Liberal 
Government (which needs help) and would be much 
appreciated if, before February 10th, when Parliament 
meets, you could say a public word friendly to our keeping 
the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty— on the tolls. You only, 
of course, can judge whether you would be justified in 
doing so. I presume only to assure you of the most ex- 
cellent effect it would have here. If you will pardon me 
for taking a personal view of it, too, I will say that such 
an expression would cap the climax of the enormously 
heightened esteem and great respect in which recent 
events and achievements have caused you to be held 
here. It would put the English of all parties in the hap- 
piest possible mood toward you for whatever subsequent 
dealings may await us. It was as friendly a man as 
Kipling who said to me the night I spent with him: "You 
know your great Government, which does many great 
things greatly, does not lie awake o' nights to keep its 
promises." 

It's our turn next, whenever you see your way clear. 

Most heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 253 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 

January 24, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

I was with the President for twenty-four hours and we 
went over everything thoroughly. 

He decided to call the Senate Committee on Foreign 
Relations to the White House on Monday and tell them 
of his intentions regarding Panama tolls. We discussed 
whether it would be better to see some of them individu- 
ally, or to take them collectively. It was agreed that 
the latter course was better. It was decided, however, 
to have Senator Jones poll the Senate in order to find just 
how it stood before getting the Committee together. 

The reason for this quick action was in response to 
your letter urging that something be done before the 10th 
of February. . . . 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

On March 5th the President made good his promise 
by going before Congress and asking the two Houses to 
repeal that clause in the Panama legislation which granted 
preferential treatment to American coastwise shipping. 
The President's address was very brief and did not discuss 
the matter in the slightest detail. Mr. Wilson made the 
question one simply of national honour. The exemption, 
he said, clearly violated the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty and 
there was nothing left to do but to set the matter right. 
The part of the President's address that aroused the great- 
est interest was the conclusion: 

"I ask this of you in support of the foreign policy of 



254 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the Administration. I shall not know how to deal with 
other matters of even greater delicacy and nearer conse- 
quence, if you do not grant it to me in ungrudging meas- 
ure. 

The impression that this speech made upon the states- 
man who then presided over the British Foreign office 
is evident from the following letter that he wrote to the 
Ambassador in Washington. 

Sir Edward Grey to Sir C. Spring Rice 

Foreign Office, 
March 13, 1914. 
Sir: 

In the course of a conversation with the American 
Ambassador to-day, I took the opportunity of saying 
how much I had been struck by President Wilson's 
Message to Congress about the Panama Canal tolls. 
When I read it, it struck me that, whether it succeeded or 
failed in accomplishing the President's object, it was some- 
thing to the good of public life, for it helped to lift public 
life to a higher plane and to strengthen its morale. 

I am, &c, 

E. Grey. 

Two days after his appearance before Congress the 
President wrote to his Ambassador: 

From the President 

The White House, Washington, 
March 7, 1914. 
My dear Page: 

I have your letters of the twenty-second and twenty- 
fourth of February and I thank you for them most 
warmly. Happily, things are clearing up a little in the 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 255 

matters which have embarrassed our relations with Great 
Britain, and I hope that the temper of public opinion is 
in fact changing there, as it seems to us from this distance 
to be changing. 

Your letters are a lamp to my feet. I feel as I read that 
their analysis is searching and true. 

Things over here go on a tolerably even keel. The 
prospect at this moment for the repeal of the tolls ex- 
emption is very good indeed. I am beginning to feel a 
considerable degree of confidence that the repeal will go 
through, and the Press of the country is certainly standing 
by me in great shape. 

My thoughts turn to you very often with gratitude and 
affectionate regard. If there is ever at any time any- 
thing specific you want to learn, pray do not hesitate to 
ask it of me directly, if you think best. 

Carden was here the other day and I spent an hour 
with him, but I got not even a glimpse of his mind. I 
showed him all of mine that he cared to see. 

With warmest regards from us all, 

Faithfully yours, 

Woodrow Wilson. 

The debate which now took place in Congress proved to 
be one of the stormiest in the history of that body. The 
proceeding did not prove to be the easy victory that 
the Administration had evidently expected. The struggle 
was protracted for three months; and it signalized Mr. 
Wilson's first serious conflict with the Senate — that same 
Senate which was destined to play such a vexatious and 
destructive role in his career. At this time, however, 
Mr. Wilson had reached the zenith of his control over 
the law-making bodies. It was early in his Presidential 
term, and in these early days Senators are likely to be 



256 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER xL PAGE 

careful about quarrelling with the White House — especially 
the Senators who are members of the President's political 
party. In this struggle, moreover, Mr. Wilson had the 
intelligence and the character of the Senate largely on 
his side, though, strangely enough, his strongest sup- 
porters were Republicans and his bitterest opponents 
were Democrats. Senator Root, Senator Burton, Senator 
Lodge, Senator Kenyon, Senator McCumber, all Re- 
publicans, day after day and week after week upheld the 
national honour; while Senators O'Gorman, Chamber- 
lain, Vardaman, and Reed, all members of the President's 
party, just as persistently led the fight for the baser 
cause. The debate inspired an outburst of Anglo- 
phobia which was most distressing to the best friends of 
the United States and Great Britain. The American 
press, as a whole, honoured itself by championing the 
President, but certain newspapers made the debate an 
occasion for unrestrained abuse of Great Britain, and of 
any one who believed that the United States should treat 
that nation honestly. The Hearst organs, in cartoon 
and editorial page, shrieked against the ancient enemy. 
All the well-known episodes and characters in American 
history — Lexington, Bunker Hill, John Paul Jones, Wash- 
ington, and Franklin — were paraded as arguments against 
the repeal of an illegal discrimination. Petitions from 
the Ancient Order of Hibernians and other Irish societies 
were showered upon Congress — in almost unending pro- 
cession they clogged the pages of the Congressional 
Record; public meetings were held in New York and else- 
where denouncing an administration that disgraced the 
country by "truckling" to Great Britain. The Presi- 
dent was accused of seeking an Anglo- American Alliance 
and of sacrificing American shipping to the glory of 
British trade, while the history of our diplomatic rela 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 257 

tions was surveyed in detail for the purpose of proving 
that Great Britain had broken every treaty she had ever 
made. In the midst of this deafening hubbub the quiet 
voice of Senator McCumber — "we are too big in national 
power to be too little in national integrity" — and that of 
Senator Root, demolishing one after another the petti- 
fogging arguments of the exemptionists, demonstrated 
that, after all, the spirit and the eloquence that had 
given the Senate its great fame were still influential 
forces in that body. 

In all this excitement, Page himself came in for his 
share of hard knocks. Irish meetings "resolved" against 
the Ambassador as a statesman who "looks on English 
claims as superior to American rights," and demanded 
that President Wilson recall him. It has been the fate 
of practically every American ambassador to Great 
Britain to be accused of Anglomania. Lowell, John 
Hay, and Joseph H. Choate fell under the ban of those 
elements in American life who seem to think that the 
main duty of an American diplomat in Great Britain is 
to insult the country of which he has become the guest. 
In 1895 the House of Representatives solemnly passed a 
resolution censuring Ambassador Thomas F. Bayard for 
a few sentiments friendly to Great Britain which he had 
uttered at a public banquet. That Page was no undis- 
criminating idolater of Great Britain these letters have 
abundantly revealed. That he had the profoundest re- 
spect for the British character and British institutions 
has been made just as clear. With Page this was no 
sudden enthusiasm; the conviction that British concep- 
tions of liberty and government and British ideals of 
life represented the fine flower of human progress was 
one that he felt deeply. The fact that these funda- 
mentals had had the opportunity of even freer develop- 



258 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ment in America he regarded as most fortunate both for 
the United States and for the world. He had never con- 
cealed his belief that the destinies of mankind depended 
more upon the friendly cooperation of the United States 
and Great Britain than upon any other single influence. 
He had preached this in public addresses, and in his 
writings for twenty-five years preceding his mission to 
Great Britain. But the mere fact that he should hold 
such convictions and presume to express them as American 
Ambassador apparently outraged those same elements 
in this country who railed against Great Britain in this 
Panama Tolls debate. 

On August 16, 1913, the City of Southampton, Eng- 
land, dedicated a monument in honour of the Mayflower 
Pilgrims — Southampton having been their original point 
of departure for Massachusetts. Quite appropriately 
the city invited the American Ambassador to deliver an 
address on this occasion; and quite appropriately the 
Ambassador acknowledged the debt that Americans of 
to-day owed to the England that had sent these ad- 
venturers to lay the foundations of new communities on 
foreign soil. Yet certain historic truths embodied in 
this very beautiful and eloquent address aroused con- 
siderable anger in certain parts of the United States. 
"Blood," said the Ambassador, "carries with it that 
particular trick of thought which makes us all English 
in the last resort. . . . And Puritan and Pilgrim 
and Cavalier, different yet, are yet one in that they are 
English still. And thus, despite the fusion of races and 
of the great contributions of other nations to her 100 mil- 
lions of people and to her incalculable wealth, the United 
States is yet English-led and English-ruled." This was 
merely a way of phrasing a great historic truth — that 
overwhelmingly the largest element in the American 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 259 

population is British in origin 1 ; that such vital things as 
its speech and its literature are English; and that our 
political institutions, our liberty, our law, our con- 
ceptions of morality and of life are similarly derived from 
the British Isles. Page applied the word "English" to 
Americans in the same sense in which that word is used 
by John Richard Green, when he traces the history of 
the English race from a German forest to the Mississippi 
Valley and the wilds of Australia. But the anti-British 
elements on this side of the water, taking "English-led 
and English-ruled " out of its context, misinterpreted the 
phrase as meaning that the American Ambassador had 
approvingly called attention to the fact that the United 
States was at present under the political control of Great 
Britain! Senator Chamberlain of Oregon presented a 
petition from the Staatsverband Deutschsprechender Vereine 
von Oregon, demanding the Ambassador's removal, while 
the Irish- American press and politicians became extremely 
vocal. 

Animated as was this outburst, it was mild compared 
with the excitement caused by a speech that Page 
made while the Panama debate was raging in Congress. 
At a dinner of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, in 
early March, the Ambassador made a few impromptu 
remarks. The occasion was one of good fellowship and 
good humour, and Page, under the inspiration of the 
occasion, indulged in a few half-serious, half-jocular 
references to the Panama Canal and British- American 
good-feeling, which, when inaccurately reported, caused 
a great disturbance in the England-baiting press. "I 

^his is the fact that is too frequently lost sight of in current discussions of the 
melting pot. In the Atlantic Monthly for August, 1920, Mr. William S. Rossiter, 
for many years chief clerk of the United States Census and a statistician of high 
standing, shows that, of the 95,000,000 white people of the United States, 55,000- 
000 trace their origin to England, Scotland, and Wales. 



260 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

would not say that we constructed the Panama Canal 
even for you," he said, "for I am speaking with great 
frankness and not with diplomatic indirection. We 
built it for reasons of our own. But I will say that it 
adds to the pleasure of that great work that you will 
profit by it. You will profit most by it, for you have 
the greatest carrying trade." A few paragraphs on the 
Monroe Doctrine, which practically repeated President 
Wilson's Mobile speech on that subject, but in which 
Mr. Page used the expression, "we prefer that European 
Powers shall acquire no more territory on this continent," 
alarmed those precisians in language, who pretended to 
believe that the Ambassador had used the word "prefer" 
in its literal sense, and interpreted the sentence to mean 
that, while the United States would "prefer" that 
Europe should not overrun North and South America, it 
would really raise no serious objection if Europe did so. 

Senator Chamberlain of Oregon, who by this time had 
apparently become the Senatorial leader of the anti-Page 
propaganda, introduced a resolution demanding that the 
Ambassador furnish the Senate a complete copy of this 
highly pro-British outgiving. The copy was furnished 
forthwith — and with that the tempest subsided. 

To the President 

American Embassy, London, 
March 18, 1914. 
Dear Mr. President: 

About this infernal racket in the Senate over my poor 
speech, I have telegraphed you all there is to say. Of 
course, it was a harmless courtesy — no bowing low to the 
British or any such thing — as it was spoken and heard. 
Of course, too, nothing would have been said about it 
but for the controversy over the Canal tolls. That was 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 261 

my mistake — in being betrayed by the friendly dinner 
and the high compliments paid to us into mentioning a 
subject under controversy. 

I am greatly distressed lest possibly it may embarrass 
you. I do hope not. 

I think I have now learned that lesson pretty thor- 
oughly. These Anglophobiacs— Irish and Panama— hound 
me wherever I go. I think I told you of one of their 
correspondents, who one night got up and yawned at 
a public dinner as soon as I had spoken and said to his 
neighbours: "Well, I'll go, the Ambassador didn't say 
anything that I can get him into trouble about." 

I shall, hereafter, write out my speeches and have them 
gone over carefully by my little Cabinet of Secretaries. 
Yet something (perhaps not much) will be lost. For 
these people are infinitely kind and friendly and cour- 
teous. 

They cannot be driven by anybody to do anything, 
but they can be led by us to do anything — by the use of 
spontaneous courtesy. It is by spontaneous courtesy 
that I have achieved whatever I have achieved, and it is 
for this that those like me who do like me. Of course, 
what some of the American newspapers have said is true 
— that I am too free and too untrained to be a great 
Ambassador. But the conventional type of Ambassador 
would not be worth his salt to represent the United 
States here now, when they are eager to work with us for 
the peace of the world, if they are convinced of our honour 
and right-mindedness and the genuineness of our friend- 
ship. 

I talked this over with Sir Edward Grey the other day, 
and after telling me that I need fear no trouble at this 
end of the line, he told me how severely he is now criti- 
cized by a "certain element" for "bowing too low to the 



262 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Americans." We then each bowed low to the other. 
The yellow press and Chamberlain would give a year's 
growth for a photograph of us in that posture! 

I am infinitely obliged to you for your kind understand- 
ing and your toleration of my errors. 

Yours always heartily, 

Walter H. Page. 
To the President. 

P. S. The serious part of the speech — made to convince 
the financial people, who are restive about Mexico, that 
we do not mean to forbid legitimate investments in 
Central America — has had a good effect here. I have 
received the thanks of many important men. 

W. H. P. 

From the President 

The White House, Washington, 
March 25, 1914. 
My dear Page: 

Thank you for your little note of March thirteenth. 4 
You may be sure that none of us who knew you or read 
the speech felt anything but admiration for it. It is 
very astonishing to me how some Democrats in the Senate 
themselves bring these artificial difficulties on the Ad- 
ministration, and it distresses me not a little. Mr. 
Bryan read your speech yesterday to the Cabinet, who 
greatly enjoyed it. It was at once sent to the Senate 
and I hope will there be given out for publication in full. 

I want you to feel constantly how I value the intelligent 
and effective work you are doing in London. I do not 
know what I should do without you. 

The fight is on now about the tolls, but I feel per- 
fectly confident of winning in the matter, though there 

^he Ambassador's letter is dated March 18th. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 263 

is not a little opposition in Congress — more in the House, 
it strangely turns out, where a majority of the Demo- 
crats originally voted against the exemption, than in the 
Senate, where a majority of the Democrats voted for it. 
The vicissitudes of politics are certainly incalculable. 
With the warmest regard, in necessary haste, 

Cordially and faithfully yours, 

Woodrow Wilson. 
Hon. Walter H. Page, 

American Embassy, 

London, England. 

To the President 

American Embassy, London, 
March 2, 1914. 
Dear Mr. President: 

I have read in the newspapers here that, after you had 
read my poor, unfortunate speech, you remarked to 
callers that you regarded it as proper. I cannot with- 
hold this word of affectionate thanks. 

I do not agree with you, heartily as I thank you. The 
speech itself, in the surroundings and the atmosphere, was 
harmless and was perfectly understood. But I ought 
not to have been betrayed into forgetting that the sub- 
ject was about to come up for fierce discussion in Con- 
gress. . . . 

Of course, I know that the whole infernal thing is 
cooked up to beat you, if possible. But that is the 
greater reason why you must win. I am willing to be 
sacrificed, if that will help — for forgetting the impend- 
ing row or for any reason you will. 

I suppose we've got to go through such a struggle to 
pull our Government and our people up to an under- 
standing of our own place in the world — a place so high 



264 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

and big and so po^vverful that all the future belongs to us. 
From an economic point of view, we are the world; and 
from a political point of view also. How any man who 
sees this can have any feeling but pity for the Old World, 
passes understanding. Our role is to treat it most 
courteously and to make it respect our character — noth- 
ing more. Time will do the rest. 

I congratulate you most heartily on the character of 
most of your opposition — the wild Irish (they must be 
sat upon some time, why not now?), the Clark 1 crowd 
(characteristically making a stand on a position of dis- 
honour), the Hearst press, and demagogues generally. 
I have confidence in the people. 

This stand is necessary to set us right before the world, 
to enable us to build up an influential foreign policy, to 
make us respected and feared, and to make the Demo- 
cratic Party the party of honour, and to give it the best 
reason to live and to win. 

May I make a suggestion? 

The curiously tenacious hold that Anglophobia has 
on a certain class of our people — might it not be worth 
your while to make, at some convenient time and in some 
natural way, a direct attack on it — in a letter to someone, 
which could be published, or in some address, or possibly 
in a statement to a Senate committee, which could be 
given to the press? Say how big and strong and sure- 
of-the-future we are; so big that we envy nobody, and 
that those who have Anglophobia or any Europe-phobia 
are the only persons who "truckle" to any foreign folk 
or power; that in this tolls-fight all the Continental gov- 
ernments are a unit; that we respect them all, fear none, 
have no favours, except proper favours among friendly 

'Mr. Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, was one of the 
most blatant opponents of Panama repeal. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 265 

nations, to ask of anybody; and that the idea of a "trade" 
with England for holding off in Mexico is (if you will ex- 
cuse my French) a common gutter lie. 

This may or may not be wise; but you will forgive me 
for venturing to suggest it. It is we who are the proud 
and erect and patriotic Americans, fearing nobody; but 
the other fellows are fooling some of the people in making 
them think that they are. 

Yours most gratefully, 

Walter H. Page. 
To the President. 

From the President 

The White House, Washington, 
April 2, 1914. 
My dear Page : 

Please do not distress yourself about that speech. I 
think with you that it was a mistake to touch upon that 
matter while it was right hot, because any touch would 
be sure to burn the finger; but as for the speech itself, I 
would be willing to subscribe to every bit of it myself, 
and there can be no rational objection to it. We shall 
try to cool the excited persons on this side of the water and 
I think nothing further will come of it. In the mean- 
time, pray realize how thoroughly and entirely you are 
enjoying my confidence and admiration. 

Your letter about Cowdray and Murray was very il- 
luminating and will be very serviceable to me. I have 
come to see that the real knowledge of the relations between 
countries in matters of public policy is to be gained at 
country houses and dinner tables, and not in diplomatic 
correspondence; in brief, that when we know the men 
and the currents of opinion, we know more than foreign 
ministers can tell us; and your letters give me, in a tbor- 



266 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

oughly dignified way, just the sidelights that are neces- 
sary to illuminate the picture. I am heartily obliged to 
you. 

All unite with me in the warmest regards as always. 

In haste, 

Faithfully yours, 

Woodrow Wilson. 
Hon. Walter H. Page, 
American Embassy, 
London, England. 

A note of a conversation with Sir Edward Grey touches 
the same point: "April 1, 1914. Sir Edward Grey re- 
called to me to-day that he had waited for the President 
to take up the Canal tolls controversy at his convenience. 
' When he took it up at his own time to suit his own plans, 
he took it up in the most admirable way possible. ' This 
whole story is too good to be lost. If the repeal of the 
tolls clause passes the Senate, I propose to make a speech 
in the House of Commons on ' The Proper Way for Great 
Governments to Deal with One Another,' and use this 
experience. 

"Sir Edward also spoke of being somewhat 'depressed' 
by the fierce opposition to the President on the tolls 
question — the extent of Anglophobia in the United 
States. 

"Here is a place for a campaign of education — Chau- 
tauqua and whatnot. 

"The amount of Anglophobia is great. But I doubt 
if it be as great as it seems ; for it is organized and is very 
vociferous. If you collected together or thoroughly or- 
ganized all the people in the United States who have 
birthmarks on their faces, you'd be 'depressed' by the 
number of them." 



HONCUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 267 

Nothing could have more eloquently proved the truth 
of this last remark than the history of this Panama bill 
itself. After all the politicians in the House and Senate 
had filled pages of the Congressional Record with denun- 
ciations of Great Britain — most of it intended for the 
entertainment of Irish-Americans and German-Ameri- 
cans in the constituencies — the two Houses proceeded 
to the really serious business of voting. The House 
quickly passed the bill by 216 to 71, and the Senate by 
50 to 35. Apparently the amount of Anglophobia was 
not portentous, when it came to putting this emotion to 
the test of counting heads. The bill went at once to 
the President, was signed — and the dishonour was 
atoned for. 

Mr. and Mrs. Page were attending a ball in Buckingham 
Palace when the great news reached London. The 
gathering represented all that was most distinguished in 
the official and diplomatic fife of the British capital. 
The word was rapidly passed from guest to guest, and 
the American Ambassador and his wife soon found them- 
selves the centre of a company which could hardly re- 
strain itself in expressing its admiration for the United 
States. Never in the history of the country had Ameri- 
can prestige stood so high as on that night. The King and 
the Prime Minister were especially affected by this dis- 
play of fair-dealing in Washington. The slight com- 
mercial advantage which Great Britain had obtained 
was not the thought that was uppermost in every- 
body's mind. The thing that really moved these as- 
sembled statesmen and diplomats was the fact that some- 
thing new had appeared in the history of legislative 
chambers. A great nation had committed an outrageous 
wrong — that was something that had happened many 
times before in all countries. But the unprecedented 



268 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

thing was that this same nation had exposed its fault 
boldly to the world — had lifted up its hands and cried, 
"We have sinned!" and then had publicly undone its 
error. Proud as Page had always been of his country, 
that moment was perhaps the most triumphant in his 
life. The action of Congress emphasized all that he had 
been saying of the ideals of the United States, and gave 
point to his arguments that justice and honour and right, 
and not temporary selfish interest, should control the 
foreign policy of any nation which really claimed to be 
enlightened. The general feeling of Great Britain was 
perhaps best expressed by the remark made to Mrs. 
Page, on this occasion, by Lady D : 

"The United States has set a high standard for all 
nations to live up to. I don't believe that there is any 
other nation that would have done it." 

One significant feature of this great episode was the act 
of Congress in accepting the President's statement that 
the repeal of the Panama discrimination was a neces- 
sary preliminary to the success of American foreign 
policy. Mr. Wilson's declaration, that, unless this legis- 
lation should be repealed, he would not "know how to 
deal with other matters of even greater delicacy and 
nearer consequence" had puzzled Congress and the 
country. The debates show the keenest curiosity as to 
what the President had in mind. The newspapers turned 
the matter over and over, without obtaining any clew 
to the mystery. Some thought that the President had 
planned to intervene in Mexico, and that the tolls legis- 
lation was the consideration demanded by Great Britain 
for a free hand in this matter. But this correspondence 
has already demolished that theory. Others thought 
that Japan was in some way involved — but that ex- 
planation also failed to satisfy. 



HONOUR AND DISHONOUR IN PANAMA 269 

Congress accepted the President's statement trustfully 
and blindly, and passed the asked-for legislation. Up 
to the present moment this passage in the Presidential 
message has been unexplained. Page's papers, however, 
disclose what seems to be a satisfactory solution to the 
mystery. They show that the President and Colonel 
House and Page were at this time engaged in a negotia- 
tion of the utmost importance. At the very time that 
the tolls bill was under discussion Colonel House was 
making arrangements for a visit to Great Britain, France, 
and Germany, the purpose of which was to bring these 
nations to some kind of an understanding that would 
prevent a European war. This evidently was the great 
business that could not be disclosed at the time and for 
which the repeal of the tolls legislation was the necessary 
preliminary. 



CHAPTER IX 

AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT THE 
EUROPEAN WAR 

PAGE'S mind, from the day of his arrival in Eng- 
land, had been filled with that portent which was the 
most outstanding fact in European life. Could nothing be 
done to prevent the dangers threatened by European 
militarism? Was there no way of forestalling the war 
which seemed every day to be approaching nearer? The 
dates of the following letters, August, 1913, show that 
this was one of the first ideas which Page presented to the 
new Administration. 

To Edward M. House 

Aug. 28, 1913. 
My dear House : 

. . . Everything is lovely and the goose hangs high. 
We're having a fine time. Only, only, only — I do wish 
to do something constructive and lasting. Here are 
great navies and armies and great withdrawals of men 
from industry — an enormous waste. Here are kings and 
courts and gold lace and ceremonies which, without pro- 
ducing anything, require great cost to keep them going. 
Here are all the privileges and taxes that this state of 
things implies — every one a hindrance to human progress. 
We are free from most of these. We have more people 
and more capable people and many times more territory 
than both England and Germany; and we have more 
potential wealth than all Europe. They know that. 

270 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 271 

They'd like to find a way to escape. The Hague pro- 
grammes, for the most part, just lead them around a 
circle in the dark back to the place where they started. 
Somebody needs to do something. If we could find some 
friendly use for these navies and armies and kings and 
things — in the service of humanity — they'd follow us. We 
ought to find a way to use them in cleaning up the tropics 
under our leadership and under our code of ethics — that 
everything must be done for the good of the tropical 
peoples and that nobody may annex a foot of land. They 
want a job. Then they'd quit sitting on their haunches, 
growling at one another. 

I wonder if we couldn't serve notice that the land- 
stealing game is forever ended and that the cleaning up 
of backward lands is now in order — for the people that 
live there; and then invite Europe's help to make the 
tropics as healthful as the Panama Zone? 

There's no future in Europe's vision — no long look 
ahead. They give all their thought to the immediate 
danger. Consider this Balkan War; all European energy 
was spent merely to keep the Great Powers at peace. 
The two wars in the Balkans have simply impoverished 
the people — left the world that much worse than it was 
before. Nobody has considered the well-being or the 
future of those peoples nor of their land. The Great 
Powers are mere threats to one another, content to 
check, one the other! There can come no help to the 
progress of the world from this sort of action — no step 
forward. 

Work on a world-plan. Nothing but blue chips, you 
know. Is it not possible that Mexico may give an enter- 
ing wedge for this kind of thing? 

Heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 



272 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

In a memorandum, written about the same time, Mr. 
Page explains Ins idea in more detail: 

Was there ever greater need than there is now of a 
first-class mind unselfishly working on world problems? 
The ablest ruling minds are engaged on domestic tasks. 
There is no world-girdling intelligence at work in gov- 
ernment. On the continent of Europe, the Kaiser is 
probably the foremost man. Yet he cannot think far 
beyond the provincial views of the Germans. In England, 
Sir Edward Grey is the largest-visioned statesman. All 
the Europeans are spending their thought and money 
in watching and checkmating one another and in main- 
taining their armed and balanced status quo. 

A way must be found out of this stagnant watching. 
Else a way will have to be fought out of it ; and a great 
European war would set the Old World, perhaps the whole 
world, back a long way ; and thereafter, the present armed 
watching would recur ; we should have gained nothing. It 
seems impossible to talk the Great Powers out of their 
fear of one another or to " Hague " them out of it. They'll 
never be persuaded to disarm. The only way left seems 
to be to find some common and useful work for these 
great armies to do. Then, perhaps, they'll work them- 
selves out of their jealous position. Isn't this sound 
psychology? 

To produce a new situation, the vast energy that now 
spends itself in maintaining armies and navies must find 
a new outlet. Something new must be found for them to 
do, some great unselfish task that they can do together. 

Nobody can lead in such a new era but the United 
States. 

May there not come such a chance in Mexico — to clean 
out bandits, yellow fever, malaria, hookworm — all to 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 273 

make the country healthful, safe for life and investment, 
and for orderly self-government at last? What we did in 
Cuba might thus be made the beginning of a new epoch 
in history — conquest for the sole benefit of the conquered, 
worked out by a sanitary reformation. The new sanita- 
tion will reclaim all tropical lands ; but the work must be 
first done by military power — probably from the outside. 

May not the existing military power of Europe con- 
ceivably be diverted, gradually, to this use? One step 
at a time, as political and financial occasions arise? As 
presently in Mexico? 

This present order must change. It holds the Old 
World still. It keeps all parts of the world apart, in 
spite of the friendly cohesive forces of trade and travel. 
It keeps back self-government and the progress of man. 

And the tropics cry out for sanitation, which is at first 
an essentially military task. 

A strange idea this may have seemed in August, 1913, 
a year before the outbreak of the European war; yet the 
scheme is not dissimilar to the "mandatory" principle, 
adopted by the Versailles Peace Conference as the only 
practical method of dealing with backward peoples. In 
this work, as in everything that would help mankind on 
its weary way to a more efficient and more democratic 
civilization, Page regarded the United States, Great 
Britain, and the British Dominions as inevitable partners. 
Anything that would bring these two nations into a 
closer cooperation he looked upon as a step making for 
human advancement. He believed that any opportunity 
of sweeping away misconceptions and prejudices and of 
impressing upon the two peoples their common mission 
should be eagerly seized by the statesmen of the 
two countries. And circumstances at this particular 



274 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

moment, Page believed,-presented a large opportunity of 
this kind. It is one of the minor ironies of modern 
history that the United*States and Great Britain should 
have selected 1914 as a year for a great peace celebration. 
That year marked the one hundredth anniversary of the 
signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 
1812, and in 1913 comprehensive plans had already been 
formed for observing this impressive centennial. The 
plan was to make it more than the mere observance of a 
hundred years of peaceful intercourse; it was the inten- 
tion to use the occasion to emphasize the fundamental 
identity of American and British ideals and to lay the 
foundation of a permanent understanding and friend- 
ship. The erection of a monument to Abraham Lincoln 
at Westminster — a plan that has since been realized — 
was one detail of this programme. Another was the res- 
toration of Sulgrave Manor, the English country seat of 
the Washingtons, and its preservation as a place where 
the peoples of both countries could share their common 
traditions. Page now dared to hope that President 
Wilson might associate himself with this great purpose to 
the extent of coming to England and accepting this 
gift in the name of the American nation. Such a Presi- 
dential visit, he believed, would exercise a mighty in- 
fluence in forestalling a tlireatening European war. 
The ultimate purpose, that is, was world peace — pre- 
cisely the same motive that led President Wilson, in 1919, 
to make a European pilgrimage. 

This idea was no passing fancy with Page: it was with 
him a favourite topic of conversation. Such a presiden- 
tial visit, he believed, would accomplish more than any 
i ther influences in dissipating the clouds that wen 4 
darkening the European landscape. He would elaborate 
the idea at length in discussions with his intimates, 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 275 

"What I want," he would say, "is to have the Presi- 
dent of the United States and the King of England stand 
up side by side and let the world take a good look at 
them!" 

To Edward M. House 

August 25, 1913, 
. . . I wrote him (President Wilson) my plan — a 
mere outline. He'll only smile now. But when the 
tariff and the currency and Mexico are off his hands, and 
when he can be invited to come and deliver an oration 
on George Washington next year at the presentation of 
the old Washington homestead here, he may be " pushed 
over." You do the pushing. Mrs. Page has invited the 
young White House couple to visit us on their honey- 
moon. 1 Encourage that and that may encourage the 
larger plan later. Nothing else would give such a friendly 
turn to the whole world as the President's coming here. 
The old Earth would sit up and rub its eyes and take 
notice to whom it belongs. This visit might prevent 
an English-German war and an American-Japanese war, 
by this mere show of friendliness. It would be one of 
the greatest occasions of our time. Even at my little 
speeches, they "whoop it up!" What would they do 
over the President's! 

But at that time Washington was too busy with its 
domestic programme to consider such a proposal seriously. 
"Your two letters," wrote Colonel House in reply, "have 
come to me and lifted me out of the rut of things and 
given me a glimpse of a fair land. What you are think- 
ing of and what you want this Administration to do is 

'Mr. and Mrs. Francis B. Sayre, son-in-law and daughter of President 
Wilson, 



276 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

beyond the power of accomplishment for the moment. 
My desk is covered with matters of no lasting importance, 
but which come to me as a part of the day's work, and 
which must be done if I am to help lift the load that is 
pressing upon the President. It tells me better than 
anything else what he has to bear, and how utterly futile 
it is for him to attempt such problems as you present." 

From the President 

My dear Page: 

. . . As for your suggestion that I should myself 
visit England during my term of office, I must say that I 
agree with all your arguments for it, and yet the case 
against the President's leaving the country, particularly 
now that he is expected to exercise a constant leader- 
ship in all parts of the business of the government, is 
very strong and I am afraid overwhelming. It might 
be the beginning of a practice of visiting foreign countries 
which would lead Presidents rather far afield. 

It is a most attractive idea, I can assure you, and I 
turn away from it with the greatest reluctance. 

We hear golden opinions of the impression you are 
making in England, and I have only to say that it is 
just what I had expected. 

Cordially and faithfully yours, 
Woodrow Wilson. 
Hon. Walter H. Page, 

American Embassy, 
London, England. 

In December, however, evidently Colonel House's mind 
had turned to the general subject that had so engaged 
that of the Ambassador. 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 277 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 
New York City. 
December 13th, 1913. 
Dear Page: 

In my budget of yesterday I did not tell you of 
the suggestion which I made to Sir William Tyrrell 
when he was here, and which I also made to the Presi- 
dent. 

It occurred to me that between us all we might bring 
about the naval holiday which Winston Churchill has 
proposed. My plan is that I should go to Germany in 
the spring and see the Kaiser, and try to win him over 
to the thought that is uppermost in our mind and that 
of the British Government. 

Sir William thought there was a good sporting chance 
of success. He offered to let me have all the correspond- 
ence that had passed between the British and German 
governments upon this question so that I might be thor- 
oughly informed as to the position of them both. He 
thought I should go directly to Germany without stop- 
ping in England, and that Gerard should prepare the 
Kaiser for my coming, telling him of my relations with the 
President. He thought this would be sufficient without 
any further credentials. 

In other words, he would do with the Kaiser what you 
did with Sir Edward Grey last summer. 

I spoke to the President about the matter and he 
seemed pleased with the suggestion ; in fact, I might say, 
he was enthusiastic. He said, just as Sir William did, 
that it would be too late for this year's budget; but he 
made a suggestion that he get the Appropriations Commit- 
tee to incorporate a clause, permitting him to ehminate 



278 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

certain parts of the battleship budget in the event that 
other nations declared for a naval holiday. So this will 
be done and will further the plan. 

Now I want to get you into the game. If you think it 
advisable, take the matter up with Sir William Tyrrell 
and then with Sir Edward Grey, or directly with Sir 
Edward, if you prefer, and give me the benefit of your 
advice and conclusions. 

Please tell Sir William that I lunched at the Embassy 
with the Spring Rices yesterday, and had a satisfactory 
talk with both Lady Spring Rice and Sir Cecil. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 



It is apparent from Page's letters that the suggestion 
now contained in Colonel House's communication would 
receive a friendly hearing. The idea that Colonel House 
suggested was merely the initial stage of a plan which soon 
took on more ambitious proportions. At the time of Sir 
William Tyrrell's American visit, the Winston Churchill 
proposal for a naval holiday was being actively dis- 
cussed by the British and the American press. In one 
form or another it had been figuring in the news for nearly 
two years. Viscount Haldane, in the course of his 
famous visit to Berlin in February, 1912, had attempted 
to reach some understanding with the German Govern- 
ment on the limitation of the German and the British 
fleets. The Agadir crisis of the year before had left 
Europe with a bad state of nerves, and there was a gen- 
eral belief that only some agreement on shipbuilding could 
prevent a European war. Lord Haldane and von Tir- 
pitz spent many hours discussing the relative sizes of the 
two navies, but the discussions led to no definite under 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 279 

standing. In March, 1913, Mr. Churchill, then First 
Lord of the Admiralty, took up the same subject in a 
different form. In this speech he first used the words 
"naval holiday," and proposed that Germany and Great 
Britain should cease building first-class battleships for one 
year, thus giving the two nations a breathing space, during 
which time they might discuss their future plans in the hope 
of reaching a permanent agreement. The matter lagged 
again until October 18, 1913, when, in a speech at Manches- 
ter, Mr. Churchill placed his proposal in this form: "Now, 
we say to our great neighbour, Germany, ' If you will put off 
beginning your two ships for twelve months from the ordi- 
nary date when you would have begun them, we will put off 
beginning our four ships, in absolute good faith, for ex- 
actly the same period.'" About the same time Premier 
Asquith made it clear that the Ministry was back of the 
suggested programme. In Germany, however, the "na- 
val holiday" soon became an object of derision. The 
official answer was that Germany had a definite naval 
law and that the Government could not entertain any 
suggestion of departing from it. Great Britain then 
answered that, for every keel Germany laid down, the 
Admiralty would lay down two. The outcome, there- 
fore, of this attempt at friendship was that the two nations 
had been placed farther apart than ever. 

The dates of this discussion, it will be observed, almost 
corresponded with the period covered by the Tyrrell 
visit to America. This fact, and Page's letters of this 
period, had apparently implanted in Colonel House's mind 
an ambition for definite action. He now proposed that 
President Wilson should take up the broken threads of 
the rapprochement and attempt to bring them together 
again. From this, as will be made plain, the plan de- 
veloped into something more comprehensive. Page's 



280 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ideas on the treatment of backward nations had strongly 
impressed both the President and Colonel House. The 
discussion on Mexico which had just taken place be- 
tween the American and the British Governments seemed 
to have developed ideas that could have a much wider 
application. The fundamental difficulties in Mexico 
were not peculiar to that country nor indeed to Latin- 
America. Perhaps the most prolific cause of war among 
the more enlightened countries was that produced by the 
jealousies and antagonisms which were developed by their 
contacts with unprogressive peoples — in the Balkans, the 
Ottoman Empire, Asia, and the Far East. The method 
of dealing with such peoples, which the United States 
had found so successful in Cuba and the Philippines, had 
proved that there was just one honourable way of dealing 
with the less fortunate and more primitive races in all 
parts of the world. Was it not possible to bring the 
greatest nations, especially the United States, Great 
Britain, and Germany, to some agreement on this ques- 
tion, as well as on the question of disarmament? This 
once accomplished, the way could be prepared for joint 
action on the numerous other problems which were then 
threatening the peace of the world. The League of 
Nations was then not even a phrase, but the plan that 
was forming in Colonel House's mind was at least some 
scheme for permanent international cooperation. For 
several years Germany had been the nation which had 
proved the greatest obstacle to such international friend- 
liness and arbitration. The Kaiser had destroyed both 
Hague Conferences as influential forces in the remaking of 
the world; and in the autumn of 1913 he had taken on a 
more belligerent attitude than ever. If this attempt to es- 
tablish a better condition of things was to succeed, Ger- 
many's cooperation would be indispensable. This is the 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 281 

reason why Colonel House proposed first of all to visit 
Berlin. 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 
January 4th, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

. . . Benj. Ide Wheeler 1 took lunch with me the 
other day. He is just back from Germany and he is on 
the most intimate terms with the Kaiser. He tells me he 
often takes dinner with the family alone, and spends the 
evening with them. 

I know, now, the different Cabinet officials who have the 
Kaiser's confidence and I know his attitude toward England, 
naval armaments, war, and world politics in general. 

Wheeler spoke to me very frankly and the information 
he gave me will be invaluable in the event that my 
plans carry. The general idea is to bring about a sym- 
pathetic understanding between England, Germany, and 
America, not only upon the question of disarmament, but 
upon other matters of equal importance to themselves, 
and to the world at large. 

It seems to me that Japan should come into this pact, 
but Wheeler tells me that the Kaiser feels very strongly 
upon the question of Asiatics. He thinks the contest of 
the future will be between the Eastern and Western civi- 
lizations. . . . 

Your friend always, 

E. M. House. 

By January 4, 1914, the House-Wilson plan had thus 
grown into an Anglo-American-German "pact," to deal 

1 Ex-President of the University of California, Roosevelt Professor at the Univer- 
sity of Berlin, 1909-10. 



282 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

not only with "disarmament, but other matters of equal 
importance to themselves and to the world at large." 
Page's response to this idea was consistent and char- 
acteristic. He had no faith in Germany and believed 
that the existence of Kaiserism was incompatible with 
the extension of the democratic ideal. Even at this 
early time — eight months before the outbreak of the 
World War — he had no enthusiasm for anything in the 
nature of an alliance, or a "pact," that included Ger- 
many as an equal partner. He did, however, have great 
faith in the cooperation of the English-speaking peoples 
as a force that would make for permanent peace and 
international justice. In his reply to Colonel House, 
therefore, Page fell back at once upon his favourite plan 
for an understanding between the United States, Great 
Britain, and the British colonies. That he would com- 
pletely sympathize with the Washington aspiration for 
disarmament was to be expected. 

To Edward M. House 

January 2, 1914. 
My dear House : 

You have set my imagination going. I've been thinking 
of this thing for months, and now you've given me a fresh 
start. It can be worked out somehow — doubtless, not 
in the form that anybody may at first see; but experiment 
and frank discussion vsill find a way. 

As I think of it, turning it this way and that, there 
always comes to me just as I am falling to sleep this 
reflection: the English-speaking peoples now rule the 
world in all essential facts. They alone and Switzerland 
have permanent free government. In France there's 
freedom — but for how long? In Germany and Austria 
— hardly. In the Scandinavian States — yes, but they 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 283 

are small and exposed as are Belgium and Holland. In 
the big secure South American States — yes, it's coming. 
In Japan — ? Only the British lands and the United 
States have secure liberty. They also have the most 
treasure, the best fighters, the most land, the most ships — 
the future in fact. 

Now, because George Washington warned us against 
alliances, we've gone on as if an alliance were a kind of 
smallpox. Suppose there were — let us say for argument's 
sake — the tightest sort of an alliance, offensive and de- 
fensive, between all Britain, colonies and all, and the 
United States — what would happen? Anything we'd 
say would go, whether we should say, "Come in out of 
the wet," or, " Disarm." That might be the beginning of 
a real world-alliance and union to accomplish certain 
large results — disarmament, for instance, or arbitration 
— dozens of good things. 

Of course, we'd have to draw and quarter the O'Gor- 
mans. 1 But that ought to be done anyhow in the general 
interest of good sense in the world. We could force any 
nation into this "trust" that we wanted in it. 

Isn't it time we tackled such a job frankly, fighting out 
the Irish problem once for all, and having done with it? 

I'm not proposing a programme. I'm only thinking 
out loud. I see little hope of doing anything so long as 
we choose to be ruled by an obsolete remark made by 
George Washington. 

January 11, 1914. 
. . . But this armament flurry is worth serious 
thought. Lloyd George gave out an interview, seeming 
to imply the necessity of reducing the navy programme. 

JJaraes A. O'Gorman was the anti-British Senator from New York State at 
this time working hard against the repeal of the Panama tolls discrimination. 



284 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

The French allies of the British went up in the air ! They 
raised a great howl. Churchill went to see them, to 
soothe them. They would not be soothed. Now the 
Prime Minister is going to Paris — ostensibly to see his 
daughter off to the Riviera. Nobody believes that reason. 
They say he's going to smooth out the French. Mean- 
time the Germans are gleeful. 

And the British Navy League is receiving money and 
encouraging letters from British subjects, praying greater 
activity to keep the navy up. You touch the navy and 
you touch the quick — that's the lesson. It's an enor- 
mous excitement that this small incident has caused. 

W. H. P. 

To Edward M. House 

London, February 24, 1914. 
My dear House : 

You'll be interested in these pamphlets by Sir Max 
Waechter, who has opened an office here and is spending 
much money to "federate" Europe, and to bring a lessen- 
ing of armaments. I enclose also an article about him 
from the Daily Telegraph, which tells how he has inter- 
viewed most of the Old World monarchs. Get also, 
immediately, the new two-volume life of Lord Lyons, 
Minister to the United States during the Civil War, and 
subsequently Ambassador to France. You will find an 
interesting account of the campaign of about 1870 to re- 
duce armaments, when old Bismarck dumped the whole 
basket of apples by marching against France. You 
know I sometimes fear some sort of repetition of that 
experience. Some government (probably Germany) will 
see bankruptcy staring it in the face and the easiest way 
out will seem a great war. Bankruptcy before a war 
would be ignominious; after a war, it could be charged to 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 285 

"Glory." It'll take a long time to bankrupt England. 
It's unspeakably rich; they pay enormous taxes, but they 
pay them out of their incomes, not out of their principal, 
except their inheritance tax. That looks to me as if it 
came out of the principal. . . . 

I hope you had a good time in Texas and escaped some 
cold weather. Tins deceptive sort of winter here is 
grippe-laden. I've had the thing, but I'm now getting 
over it. . . . 

This Benton^Mexican business is causing great ex- 
citement here. 

Always heartily yours, 

W. H. P. 

P. S. There's nothing like the President. By George! 
the passage of the arbitration treaty (renewal) almost 
right off the bat, and apparently the tolls discrimination 
coming presently to its repeal! Sir Edward Grey re- 
marked to me yesterday: 'Things are clearing up!" 
I came near saying to him: "Have you any miracles in 
mind that you'd like to see worked?" Wilson stock is at 
a high premium on this side of the water in spite of the 
momentary impatience caused by Benton's death. 

W. H. P. 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 
April 19th, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

I have had a long talk with Mr. Laughlin. 2 At first he 
thought I would not have more than one chance in a 

1 In February, 1915, William S. Benton, an English subject who had spent the 
larger part of his life in Mexico, was murdered in the presence of Francisco Villa. 

2 Mr. Irwin Laughlin, first secretary of the American Embassy in London; at 
this time spending a few weeks in the United States. 



286 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

million to do anything with the Kaiser, but after talking 
with him further, he concluded that I would have a fairly 
good sporting chance. I have about concluded to take it. 

If I can do anything, I can do it in a few days. I was 
with the President most of last week. . . . 

He spoke of your letters to him and to me as being 
classics, and said they were the best letters, as far as he 
knew, that any one had ever written. Of course you 
know how heartily I concur in this. He said that some- 
time they should be published. 

The President is now crystallizing his mind in regard to 
the Federal Reserve Board, and if you are not to remain 
in London, then he would probably put Houston on the 
Board and ask you to take the Secretaryship of Agricul- 
ture. 

You have no idea the feeling that is being aroused by 
the tolls question. The Hearst papers are screaming at 
all of us every day. They have at last honoured me with 
their abuse. . . . 

With love and best wishes, I am, 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

From Edward M. House 

145 East 35th Street, 

New York City. 
April 20th, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

. . . It is our purpose to sail on the Imperator, 
May 16th, and go directly to Germany. I expect to be 
there a week or more, but Mrs. House will reach London 
by the 1st or 2nd of June. . . . 

Our friend 1 in Washington thinks it is worth while for 

1 Obviously President Wilson. 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 287 

me to go to Germany, and that determines the matter. 
The press is shrieking to-day over the Mexican situation, 
but I hope they will be disappointed. It is not the in- 
tention to do anything further for the moment than to 
blockade the ports, and unless some overt act is made 
from the North, our troops will not cross the border. 

Your friend always, 

E. M. House. 

To Edward M. House 

London, April 27, 1914. 
My dear House: 

Of course you decided wisely to carry out your original 
Berlin plan, and you ought never to have had a mo- 
ment's hesitation, if you did have any hesitation. I do 
not expect you to produce any visible or immediate re- 
sults. I hope I am mistaken in this. But you know that 
the German Government has a well-laid progressive plan 
for shipbuilding for a certain number of years. I believe 
that the work has, in fact, already been arranged for. 
But that has nothing to do with the case. You are going 
to see what effect you can produce on the mind of a 
man. Perhaps you will never know just what effect you 
will produce. Yet the fact that you are who you are, 
that you make this journey for this especial purpose, that 
you are everlastingly right — these are enough. 

Moreover, you can't ever tell results, nor can you af- 
ford to make your plans in this sort of high work with the 
slightest reference to probable results. That's the big- 
ness and the glory of it. Any ordinary man can, on any 
ordinary day, go and do a task, the favourable results 
of Avhich may be foreseen. That's easy. The big thing 
is to go confidently to work on a task, the results of 
which nobody can possibly foresee — a task so vague and 



288 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

improbable of definite results that small men hesitate. 
It is in this spirit that very many of the biggest things in 
history have been done. Wasn't the purchase of Louisi- 
ana such a thing? Who'd ever have supposed that thai 
could have been brought about? I applaud your errand 
and I am eagerly impatient to hear the results. When 
will you get here? I assume that Mrs. House will not 
go with you to Berlin. No matter so you both turn up 
here for a good long stay. 

I've taken me a little bit of a house about twenty 
miles out of town whither we are going in July as soon 
as we can get away from London. I hope to stay down 
there till far into October, coming up to London about 
thrice a week. That's the dull season of the year. It's 
a charming little country place — big enough for you to 
visit us. . . . 

From Edward M. House 

An Bord des Dampfers Imperator 
den May 21, 1914. 
Hamburg-Amerika Linie 

Dear Page: 

Here we are again. The Wallaces 1 land at Cherbourg, 
Friday morning, and we of course go on to Berlin. I 
wish I might have the benefit of your advice just now, for 
the chances for success in this great adventure are slender 
enough at best. The President has done his part in the 
letter I have with me, and it is clearly up to me to do 
mine. . . . 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 



i Mr. Hugh C. Wallace, afterward Ambassador to France, and Mrs. Wallace. 
Mr. and Mrs. Wallace accompanied Mr. and Mrs. House on this journey. 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 289 

It will be observed that Colonel House had taken the 
advice of Sir William Tyrrell, and had sailed directly to 
Germany on a German ship — the Imperator. Ambas- 
sador Gerard had made preparations for his reception in 
Berlin, and the American soon had long talks with Ad- 
miral von Tirpitz, Falkenhayn, Von Jagow, Solf, and 
others. Von Bethmann-Hollweg's wife died almost on 
the day of his arrival in Berlin, so it was impossible for 
him to see the Chancellor — the man who would have 
probably been the most receptive to these peace ideas. 
All the leaders of the government, except Von Tirpitz, 
gave Colonel House's proposals a respectful if somewhat 
cynical hearing. Von Tirpitz was openly and demon- 
stratively hostile. The leader of the German Navy simply 
bristled with antagonism at any suggestion for peace 
or disarmament or world cooperation. He consumed a 
large part of the time which Colonel House spent with 
him denouncing England and all its works. Hatred 
of the "Island Kingdom" was apparently the consuming 
passion of his existence. On the whole, Von Tirpitz 
thus made no attempt to conceal his feeling that the pur- 
pose of the House mission was extremely distasteful to 
him. The other members of the Government, while not 
so tactlessly hostile, were not particularly encouraging. 
The usual objections to disarmament were urged — the 
fear of other Powers, the walled-in state of Germany, the 
vigilant enemies against which it was necessary con- 
stantly to be prepared and watchful. Even more than 
the unsympathetic politeness of the German Cabinet 
the general atmosphere of Berlin was depressing to Colo- 
nel House. The militaristic oligarchy was absolutely in 
control. Militarism possessed not only the army, the 
navy, and the chief officers of state, but the populace as 
well. One almost trivial circumstance has left a lasting 



290 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

impression on Colonel House's mind. Ambassador Gerard 
took him out one evening for a little relaxation. Both 
Mr. Gerard and Colonel House were fond of target shoot- 
ing and the two men sought one of the numerous rifle 
galleries of Berlin. They visited gallery after gallery, 
but could not get into one. Great crowds lined up at 
every place, waiting their turns at the target; it seemed 
as though every able-bodied man in Berlin was spending 
all his time improving his marksmanship. But this was 
merely a small indication of the atmosphere of militarism 
which prevailed in the larger aspects of life. Colonel 
House found himself in a strange place to preach inter- 
national accord for the ending of war ! 

He had come to Berlin not merely to talk with the 
Cabinet heads; his goal was the Kaiser himself. But he 
perceived at once a persistent opposition to his plan. 
As he was the President's personal representative, and 
carried a letter from the President to the Kaiser, an audi- 
ence could not be refused — indeed, it had already been 
duly arranged; but there was a quiet opposition to his 
consorting with the "All Highest ' ' alone. It was not usual, 
Colonel House was informed, for His Imperial Majesty 
to discuss such matters except in the presence of a repre- 
sentative of the Foreign Office. Germany had not yet 
recovered from the shock which the Emperor's conversa- 
tion with certain foreign correspondents had given the 
nation. The effects were still felt of the famous interviews 
of October 28, 1908, which, when published in the Lon- 
don Telegraph, had caused the bitterest resentment in 
Great Britain. The Kaiser had given his solemn word 
that he would indulge in no more indiscretions of this 
sort, and a private interview with Colonel House was re- 
garded by his advisers as a possible infraction of that 
promise. But the American would not be denied. He 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 291 

knew that an interview with a third person present would 
be simply time thrown away since his message was in- 
tended for the Kaiser's own ears; and ultimately his per- 
sistence succeeded. The next Monday would be June 
1st — a great day in Germany. It was the occasion of the 
Schrippenfest, a day which for many years had been set 
aside for the glorification of the German Army. On that 
festival, the Kaiser entertained with great pomp repre- 
sentative army officers and representative privates, as 
well as the diplomatic corps and other distinguished 
foreigners. Colonel House was invited to attend the 
Kaiser's luncheon on that occasion, and was informed that, 
after this function was over, he would have an opportun- 
ity of having a private conversation with His Majesty. 

The affair took place in the palace at Potsdam. The 
militarism which Colonel House had felt so oppressively 
in Berlin society was especially manifest on this occasion. 
There were two luncheon parties — that of the Kaiser 
and his officers and guests in the state dining room, and 
that of the selected private soldiers outside. The Kaiser 
and the Kaiserin spent a few moments with their humbler 
subjects, drinking beer with them and passing a few com- 
radely remarks; they then proceeded to the large dining 
hall and took their places with the gorgeously caparisoned 
and bemedalled chieftains of the German Army. The 
whole proceeding has an historic interest, in that it was 
the last Schrippenfest held. Whether another will ever 
be held is problematical, for the occasion was an inevitable 
part of the trappings of Hohenzollernism. Despite the 
gravity of the occasion, Colonel House's chief memory 
of this function is slightly tinged with the ludicrous. He 
had spent the better part of a lifetime attempting to 
rid himself of his military title, but uselessly. He was 
now embarrassed because these solemn German officers 



292 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

persisted in regarding him as an important part of the 
American Army, and in discussing technical and strategi- 
cal problems. The visitor made several attempts to ex- 
plain that he was merely a "geographical colonel" — 
that the title was constantly conferred in an informal 
sense on Americans, especially Southerners, and that the 
handle to his name had, therefore, no military signifi- 
cance. But the round-faced Teutons stared at Ins ex- 
planation in blank amazement; they couldn't grasp the 
point at all, and continued to ask his opinion of matters 
purely military. 

When the lunch was finished, the Kaiser took Colonel 
House aside, and the two men withdrew to the terrace, 
out of earshot of the rest of the gathering. However, 
they were not out of sight. For nearly half an hour the 
Kaiser and the American stood side by side upon the ter- 
race, the German generals, at a respectful distance, watch- 
ing the proceeding, resentful, puzzled, curious as to what it 
was all about. The quiet demeanour of the American 
" Colonel," his plain citizen's clothes, and his almost impas- 
sive face, formed a striking contrast to the Kaiser's dazzling 
uniform and the general scene of military display. Two or 
three of the generals and admirals present were in the 
secret, but only two or three ; the mass of officers watching 
this meeting little guessed that the purpose of House's visit 
was to persuade the Kaiser to abandon everything for 
which the Schrippenfest stood ; to enter an international 
compact with the United States and Great Britain for 
reducing armaments, to reach an agreement about trade 
and the treatment of backward peoples, and to form 
something of a permanent association for the preserva- 
tion of peace. The one thing which was apparent to the 
watchers was that the American was only now and then 
saying a brief word, but that the Kaiser was, as usual, 




Walter H. Page, from a photograph taken a few years before he 
became American Ambassador to Great Britain 




The British Foreign Office. Downing Street 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 293 

doing a vast amount of talking. His speech rattled on 
with the utmost animation, his arms were constantly 
gesticulating, he would bring one fist down into his palm 
to register an emphatic point, and enforce certain ideas 
with a menacing forefinger. At times Colonel House 
would show slight signs of impatience and interrupt the 
flow of talk. But the Kaiser was clearly absorbed in the 
subject under discussion. His entourage several times 
attempted to break up the interview. The Court Cham- 
berlain twice gingerly approached and informed His 
Majesty that the Imperial train Avas waiting to take the 
party back to Berlin. Each time the Kaiser, with an 
angry gesture, waved the interrupter away. Despairing of 
the usual resources, the Kaiserin was sent with the same 
message. The Kaiser did not treat her so summarily, but 
he paid no attention to the request, and continued to dis- 
cuss the European situation with the American. 

The subject that had mainly aroused the Imperial 
warmth was the "Yellow Peril." For years this had been 
an obsession with the Kaiser, and he launched into the 
subject as soon as Colonel House broached the purpose of 
his visit. There could be no question of disarmament, 
the Kaiser vehemently declared, as long as this danger 
to civilization existed. "We white nations should join 
hands," he said, "to oppose Japan and the other yellow 
nations, or some day they will destroy us. " 

It was with difficulty that Colonel House could get 
His Majesty away from this subject. Whatever topic 
he touched upon, the Kaiser would immediately start 
declaiming on the dangers that faced Europe from the 
East. His insistence on this accounted partly for the 
slight signs of impatience which the American showed. 
He feared that all the time allotted for the interview would 
be devoted to discussing the Japanese. About another 



294 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

nation, the Kaiser showed almost as much alarm as he 
did about Japan, and that was Russia. He spoke con- 
temptuously of France and Great Britain as possible 
enemies, for he apparently had no fear of them. But the 
size of Russia and the exposed eastern frontier of Ger- 
many seemed to appal him. How could Germany join a 
peace pact, and reduce its army, so long as 175,000,000 
Slavs threatened them from this direction? 

Another matter that the Kaiser discussed with de- 
rision was Mr. Bryan's arbitration treaty. Practically 
all the great nations had already ratified this treaty ex- 
cept Germany. The Kaiser now laughed at the treaties 
and pooh-poohed Bryan. Germany, he declared, would 
never accept such an arbitration plan. Colonel House 
had particular cause to remember this part of the conver- 
sation three years afterward, when the United States 
declared war on Germany. The outstanding feature of 
the Bryan treaty was the clause which pledged the high 
contracting parties not to go to war without taking a 
breathing spell of one year in which to think the matter 
over. Had Germany adopted this treaty, the United 
States, in April, 1917, after Germany had presented a 
casus belli by resuming unrestricted submarine warfare, 
could not have gone to war. We should have been 
obliged to wait a year, or until April, 1918, before en- 
gaging in hostilities. That is, an honourable observance 
of this Bryan treaty by the United States would have 
meant that Germany would have starved Great Britain 
into surrender, and crushed Europe with her army. Had 
the Kaiser, on this June afternoon, not notified Colonel 
House that Germany would not accept this treaty, but, 
instead, had notified him that he would accept it, Wil- 
liam II might now be sitting on the throne of a victorious 
Germany, with Europe for a footstool. 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 295 

Despite the Kaiser's hostile attitude toward these de- 
tails, his general reception of the President's proposals 
was not outwardly unfriendly. Perhaps he was sincere, 
perhaps not; yet the fact is that he manifested more 
cordiality to this somewhat vague "get-together" pro- 
posal than had any of his official advisers. He encouraged 
Colonel House to visit London, talk the matter over with 
British statesmen, and then return to Berlin. 

"The last thing," he said, "that Germany wants is 
war. We are getting to be a great commercial country. 
In a few years Germany will be a rich country, like Eng- 
land and the United States. We don't want a war to 
interfere with our progress." 

Any peace suggestion that was compatible with German 
safety, he said, would be entertained. Yet his parting 
words were not reassuring. 

"Every nation in Europe," he said, "has its bayonets 

pointed at Germany. But " — and with this he gave 

a proud and smiling glance at the glistening representa- 
tives of his army gathered on this brilliant occasion — 
"we are ready!" 

Colonel House left Berlin, not particularly hopeful; 
the Kaiser impressed him as a man of unstable nervous 
organization — as one who was just hovering on the border- 
land of insanity. Certainly, this was no man to be en- 
trusted with such powers as the American had witnessed 
that day at Potsdam. Dangerous as the Kaiser was, 
however, he did not seem to Colonel House to be as great 
a menace to mankind as were his military advisers. The 
American came away from Berlin with the conviction 
that the most powerful force in Germany was the mili- 
taristic clique, and second, the Hohenzollern dynasty. 
He has always insisted that this represented the real 
precedence in power. So long as the Kaiser was obedient 



296 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to the will of militarism, so long could he maintain his 
standing. He was confident, however, that the mili- 
taristic oligarchy was determined to have its will, and 
would dethrone the Kaiser the moment he showed in- 
dications of taking a course that would lead to peace. 
Colonel House was also convinced that this militaristic 
oligarchy was determined on war. The coolness with 
which it listened to his proposals, the attempts it made 
to keep him from seeing the Kaiser alone, its repeated 
efforts to break up the conversation after it had begun, 
all pointed to the inevitable tragedy. The fact that the 
Kaiser expressed a wish to discuss the matter again, 
after Colonel House had sounded London, was the one 
hopeful feature of an otherwise discouraging experience, 
and accounts for the tone of faint optimism in his letters 
describing the visit. 

From Edward M. House 

Embassy of the United States of America, 

Berlin, 

May 28, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

. . . I have done something here already — not 
much, but enough to open negotiations with London. 
I lunch with the Kaiser on Monday. I was advised to 
avoid Admiral von Tirpitz as being very unsympathetic. 
However, I went directly at him and had a most interest- 
ing talk. He is a forceful fellow. Yon Jagow is pleasant 
but not forceful. I have had a long talk with him. The 
Chancellor's wife died last week so I have not got in 
touch with him. I will write you more fully from Paris. 
My address there will be Hotel Ritz. 

Hastily, 

E. M. H. 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 297 

From Edward M. House 

Hotel Ritz, 15, Place Vendome, Paris. 

June 3, 1914. 
Dear Page : 

I had a satisfactory talk with the Kaiser on Monday. 
I have now seen everyone worthwhile in Germany except 
the Chancellor. I am ready now for London. Perhaps 
you had better prepare the way. The Kaiser knows I 
am to see them, and I have arranged to keep him in touch 
with results — if there are any. We must work quickly 
after I arrive, for it may be advisable for me to return to 
Germany, and I am counting on sailing for home July 
15th or 28th. ... I am eager to see you and tell 
you what I know. 

Yours, 

E. M. H. 

Colonel House left that night for Paris, but there the 
situation was a hopeless one. France was not thinking 
of a foreign war; it was engrossed with its domestic 
troubles. There had been three French ministries in two 
weeks ; and the trial of Madame Caillaux for the murder of 
Gaston Calmette, editor of the Paris Figaro, was monop- 
olizing all the nation's capacity for emotion. Colonel 
House saw that it would be a waste of energy to take up 
his mission at Paris — there was no government stable 
enough to make a discussion worth while. He therefore 
immediately left for London. 

The political situation in Great Britain was almost as 
confused as that in Paris. The country was in a state 
approaching civil war on the question of Home Rule 
for Ireland; the suffragettes were threatening to dyna- 
mite the Houses of Parliament; and the eternal struggle 



298 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

between the Liberal and the Conservative elements was 
raging with unprecedented virulence. A European war 
was far from everybody's mind. It was this utter in- 
ability to grasp the realities of the European situation 
which proved the main impediment to Colonel House's 
work in England. He met all the important people — 
Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Edward Grey, and 
others. With them he discussed his "pact" proposal in 
great detail. 

Naturally, ideas of this sort were listened to sympa- 
thetically by statesmen of the stamp of Asquith, Grey, 
and Lloyd George. The difficulty, however, was that 
none of these men apprehended an immediate war. They 
saw no necessity of hurrying about the matter. They had 
the utmost confidence in Prince Lichnowsky, the German 
Ambassador in London, and Von Bethmann-Hollw eg, 
the German Chancellor. Both these men were regarded 
by the Foreign Office as guarantees against a German at- 
tack; their continuance in their office was looked upon 
as an assurance that Germany entertained no immediately 
aggressive plans. Though the British statesmen did not 
say so definitely, the impression was conveyed that the 
mission on which Colonel House was engaged was an 
unnecessary one — a preparation against a danger that 
did not exist. Colonel House attempted to persuade 
Sir Edward Grey to visit the Kiel regatta, which was to 
take place in a few r days, see the Kaiser, and discuss the 
plan with him. But the Government feared that such a 
visit would be very disturbing to France and Bussia. 
Already Mr. Churchill's proposal for a "naval holiday" 
had so wTOught up the French that a hurried trip to 
France by Mr. Asquith had been necessary to quiet them ; 
the consternation that would have been caused in Paris 
by the presence of Sir Edw ard Grey at Kiel can only be 



AMERICA TRIES TO PREVENT WAR 299 

imagined. The fact that the British statesmen enter- 
tained so little apprehension of a German attack may 
possibly be a reflection on their judgment; yet Colonel 
House's visit has great historical value, for the experience 
afterward, convinced him that Great Britain had had no 
part in bringing on the European war, and that Germany 
was solely responsible. It certainly should have put the 
Wilson Administration right on this all-important point, 
when the great storm broke. 

The most vivid recollection which the British statesmen 
whom Colonel House met retain of Ins visit, was his con- 
sternation at the spirit that had confronted him every- 
where in Germany. The four men most interested — 
Sir Edward Grey, Sir William Tyrrell, Mr. Page, and 
Colonel House — met at luncheon in the American Em- 
bassy a few days after President Wilson's emissary had 
returned from Berlin. Colonel House could talk of little 
except the preparations for war which were manifest on 
every hand. 

"I feel as though I had been living near a mighty 
electric dynamo," Colonel House told his friends. "The 
whole of Germany is charged with electricity. Every- 
body's nerves are tense. It needs only a spark to set the 
whole thing off." 

The "spark" came two weeks afterward with the as- 
sassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. 

"It is all a bad business," Colonel House wrote to 
Page when war broke out, "and just think how near we 
came to making such a catastrophe impossible! If 
England had moved a little faster and had let me go 
back to Germany, the thing, perhaps, could have been 
done." 

To which Page at once replied: 



300 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"No, no, no — no power on earth could have prevented 
it. The German militarism, which is the crime of the 
last fifty years, has been working for tins for twenty -five 
years. It is the logical result of their spirit and enterprise 
and doctrine. It had to come. But, of course, they 
chose the wrong time and the wrong issue. Militarism 
has no judgment. Don't let your conscience be worried. 
You did all that any mortal man could do. But nobody 
could have done anything effective. 

"We've got to see to it that this system doesn't grow 
up again. That's all." 



CHAPTER X 

THE GRAND SMASH 

IN THE latter part of July the Pages took a small house 
at Ockliam, in Surrey, and here they spent the fateful 
week that preceded the outbreak of war. The Ambas- 
sador's emotions on this event are reflected in a memo- 
randum written on Sunday, August 2nd — a day that was 
full of negotiations, ultimatums, and other precursors of 
the approaching struggle. 

Bachelor's Farm, Ockham, Surrey. 
Sunday, August 2, 1914. 

The Grand Smash is come. Last night the German 
Ambassador at St. Petersburg handed the Russian Gov- 
ernment a declaration of war. To-day the German Gov- 
ernment asked the United States to take its diplomatic 
and consular business in Russia in hand. Herrick, our 
Ambassador in Paris, has already taken the German in- 
terests there. 

It is reported in London to-day that the Germans have 
invaded Luxemburg and France. 

Troops were marching through London at one o'clock 
this morning. Colonel Squier 1 came out to luncheon. 
He sees no way for England to keep out of it. There is 
no way. If she keep out, Germany will take Belgium 
and Holland, France would be betrayed, and England 
would be accused of forsaking her friends. 

'At this time American military attache. 

301 



302 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

People came to the Embassy all day to-day (Sunday), 
to learn how they can get to the United States — a rather 
hard question to answer. I thought several times of 
going in, but Greene and Squier said there was no need 
of it. People merely hoped we might tell them what we 
can't tell them. 

Returned travellers from Paris report indescribable con- 
fusion — people unable to obtain beds and fighting for 
seats in railway carriages. 

It's been a hard day here. I have a lot (not a 
big lot either) of routine work on my desk which I 
meant to do. But it has been impossible to get my 
mind off this Great Smash. It holds one in spite of 
one's self. I revolve it and revolve it — of course getting 
nowhere. 

It will revive our shipping. In a jiffy, under stress of a 
general European war, the United States Senate passed a 
bill permitting American registry to ships built abroad. 
Thus a real emergency knocked the old Protectionists 
out, who had held on for fifty years! Correspondingly 
the political parties here have agreed to suspend their 
Home Rule quarrel till this war is ended. Artificial 
structures fall when a real wind blows. 

The United States is the only great Power wholly out 
of it. The United States, most likely, therefore, will be 
able xo play a helpful and historic part at its end. It will 
give President Wilson, no doubt, a great opportunity. 
It will probably help us politically and it will surely help 
us economically. 

The possible consequences stagger the imagination. 
Germany has staked everything on her ability to win 
primacy. England and France (to say nothing of 
Russia) really ought to give her a drubbing. If they do 
not, this side of the world will henceforth be German. If 



THE GRAND SMASH 303 

they do flog Germany, Germany will for a long time be in 
discredit. 

I walked out in the night a while ago. The stars are 
bright, the night is silent, the country quiet — as quiet 
as peace itself. Millions of men are in camp and on war- 
ships. Will they all have to fight and many of them die — ■ 
to untangle this network of treaties and alliances and to 
blow off huge debts with gunpowder so that the world 
may start again P 

A hurried picture of the events of the next seven days 
is given in the following letter to the President: 

To the President 

London, Sunday, August 9, 1914. 
Dear Mr. President: 

God save us ! What a week it has been ! Last Sunday 
I was down here at the cottage I have taken for the 
summer — an hour out of London — uneasy because of the 
apparent clanger and of what Sir Edward Grey had told 
me. During the day people began to go to the Embassy, 
but not in great numbers — merely to ask what they 
should do in case of war. The Secretary whom I had 
left in charge on Sunday telephoned me every few hours 
and laughingly told funny experiences with nervous wo- 
men who came in and asked absurd questious. Of course, 
we all knew the grave danger that war might come but 
nobody could by the wildest imagination guess at what 
awaited us. On Monday I was at the Embassy earlier 
than I think I had ever been there before and every 
member of the staff was already on duty. Before break- 
fast time the place was filled — packed like sardines. 
This was two days before war was declared. There was 



304 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

no chance to talk to individuals, such was the jam. I 
got on a chair and explained that I had already tele- 
graphed to Washington— on Saturday— suggesting the 
sending of money and ships, and asking them to be pa- 
tient. I made a speech to them several times during the 
day, and kept the Secretaries doing so at intervals. More 
than 2,000 Americans crowded into those offices (which 
are not large) that day. We were kept there till two 
o'clock in the morning. The Embassy has not been 
closed since. 

Mr. Kent of the Bankers Trust Company in New York 
volunteered to form an American Citizens' Relief Com- 
mittee. He and other men of experience and influence 
organized themselves at the Savoy Hotel. The hotel 
gave the use of nearly a whole floor. They organized 
themselves quickly and admirably and got information 
about steamships and currency, etc. We began to send 
callers at the Embassy to this Committee for such inform- 
ation. The banks were all closed for four days. These 
men got money enough — put it up themselves and used 
their English banking friends for help— to relieve all 
cases of actual want of cash that came to them. Tuesday 
the crowd at the Embassy was still great but smaller. 
The big space at the Savoy Hotel gave them room to 
talk to one another and to get relief for immediate needs. 
By that time I had accepted the volunteer services of 
five or six men to help us explain to the people — and 
they have all worked manfully day and night. We now 
have an orderly organization at four places: The Em- 
bassy, the Consul-General's Office, the Savoy, and the 
American Society in London, and everything is going well. 
Those two first days, there was, of course, great con- 
fusion. Crazy men and weeping women were imploring 
and cursing and demanding— God knows it was bedlam 



THE GRAND SMASH 305 

turned loose. I have been called a man of the greatest 
genius for an emergency by some, by others a damned 
fool, by others every epithet between these extremes. 
Men shook English banknotes in my face and demanded 
United States money and swore our Government and its 
agents ought all to be shot. Women expected me to 
hand them steamship tickets home. When some found 
out that they could not get tickets on the transports 
(which they assumed would sail the next day) they ac- 
cused me of favouritism. These absurd experiences will 
give you a hint of the panic. But now it has worked out 
all right, thanks to the Savoy Committee and other 
helpers. 

Meantime, of course, our telegrams and mail increased 
almost as much as our callers. I have filled the place 
with stenographers, I have got the Savoy people to answer 
certain classes of letters, and we have caught up. My 
own time and the time of two of the secretaries has been 
almost wholly taken with governmental problems; hun- 
dreds of questions have come in from every quarter that 
were never asked before. But even with them we have 
now practically caught up — it has been a wonderful week ! 

Then the Austrian Ambassador came to give up his Em- 
bassy — to have me take over his business. Every detail was 
arranged. The next morning I called on him to assume 
charge and to say good-bye, when he told me that he was 
not yet going ! That was a stroke of genius by Sir Edward 
Grey, who informed him that Austria had not given 
England cause for war. That may work out, or it may 
not. Pray Heaven it may! Poor Mensdorff, the Aus- 
trian Ambassador, does not know where he is. He is 
practically shut up in his guarded Embassy, weeping and 
waiting the decree of fate. 

Then came the declaration of war, most dramatically. 



306 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Tuesday night, five minutes after the ultimatum had ex- 
pired, the Admiralty telegraphed to the fleet 'Go." In 
a few minutes the answer came back "Off." Soldiers 
began to march through the city going to the railway 
stations. An indescribable crowd so blocked the streets 
about the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Foreign 
Office, that at one o'clock in the morning I had to drive 
in my car by other streets to get home. 

The next day the German Embassy was turned over 
to me. I went to see the German Ambassador at three 
o'clock in the afternoon. He came down in his pajamas, 
a crazy man. I feared he might literally go mad. He 
is of the anti-war party and he had done his best and 
utterly failed. This interview was one of the most 
pathetic experiences of my fife. The poor man had not 
slept for several nights. Then came the crowds of 
frightened Germans, afraid that they would be arrested. 
They besieged the German Embassy and our Embassy. 
I put one of our naval officers in the German Embassy, 
put the United States seal on the door to protect it, and 
we began business there, too. Our naval officer has moved 
in — sleeps there. He has an assistant, a stenographer, a 
messenger: and I gave him the German automobile and 
chauffeur and two English servants that were left there. 
He has the job well in hand now, under my and Laugh- 
lin's supervision. But this has brought still another new 
lot of diplomatic and governmental problems — a lot of 
them. Three enormous German banks in London have, 
of course, been closed. Their managers pray for my aid. 
Howling women come and say their innocent German 
husbands have been arrested as spies. English, Germans, 
Americans — everybody has daughters and wives and 
invalid grandmothers alone in Germany. In God's 
name, they ask, what can I do for them? Here come 



THE GRAND SMASH 307 

stacks of letters sent under the impression that I can 
send them to Germany. But the German business is 
already well in hand and I think that that will take little 
of my own time and will give little trouble. I shall send 
a report about it in detail to the Department the very 
first day I can find time to write it. In spite of the effort 
of the English Government to remain at peace with 
Austria, I fear I shall yet have the Austrian Embassy too. 
But I can attend to it. 

Now, however, comes the financial job of wisely using 
the $300,000 which I shall have to-morrow. I am using 
Mr. Chandler Anderson as counsel, of course. I have 
appointed a Committee — Skinner, the Consul-General, 
Lieut.-Commander McCrary of our Navy, Kent of the 
Bankers Trust Company, New York, and one other man 
yet to be chosen — to advise, after investigation, about 
every proposed expenditure. Anderson has been at work 
all day to-day drawing up proper forms, etc., to fit the 
Department's very excellent instructions. I have the 
feeling that more of that money may be wisely spent in 
helping to get people off the continent (except in France, 
where they seem admirably to be managing it, under 
Herrick) than is immediately needed in England. All 
this merely to show you the diversity and multiplicity 
of the job. 

I am having a card catalogue, each containing a sort 
of who's who, of all Americans in Europe of whom we 
hear. This will be ready by the time the Tennessee 1 
comes. Fifty or more stranded Americans — men and 
women — are doing this work free. 

I have a member of Congress 2 in the general reception 



ir rhe American Government, on the outbreak of war, sent the U. S. S. Tennessee 
to Europe, with large supplies of gold for the relief of stranded Americans. 

2 The late Augustus P. Gardner, of Massachusetts. 



308 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

room of the Embassy answering people's questions — 
three other volunteers as well. 

We had a world of confusion for two or three days. 
But all this work is now well organized and it can be 
continued without confusion or cross purposes. I meet 
committees and lay plans and read and write telegrams 
from the time I wake till I go to bed. But, since it is 
now all in order, it is easy. Of course I am running up 
the expenses of the Embassy — there is no help for that; 
but the bill will be really exceedingly small because of the 
volunteer work — for awhile. I have not and shall not 
consider the expense of whatever it seems absolutely 
necessary to do — of other things I shall always consider 
the expense most critically. Everybody is working with 
everybody else in the finest possible spirit. I have made 
out a sort of military order to the Embassy staff, detailing 
one man with clerks for each night and forbidding the 
others to stay there till midnight. None of us slept more 
than a few hours last week. It was not the work that 
kept them after the first night or two, but the sheer ex- 
citement of this awful cataclysm. All London has been 
awake for a week. Soldiers are marching day and night; 
immense throngs block the streets about the government 
offices. But they are all very orderly. Every day Ger- 
mans are arrested on suspicion ; and several of them have 
committed suicide. Yesterday one poor American wo- 
man yielded to the excitement and cut her throat. I 
find it hard to get about much. People stop me on the 
street, follow me to luncheon, grab me as I come out of 
any committee meeting — to know my opinion of this 
or that — how can they get home? Will such-and-such a 
boat fly the American flag? Why did I take the German 
Embassy? I have to fight my way about and rush to an 
automobile. I have had to buy me a second one to keep 




No. 6 Grosvenor Square, the American Embassy under Mr. Page 




Irwin Laughlin, Secretary of the American Embassy at London, 
1912-1917, Counsellor 1916-1919 



THE GRAND SMASH 309 

up the racket. Buy? — no — only bargain for it, for I 
have not any money. But everybody is considerate, 
and that makes no matter for the moment. This little 
cottage in an out-of-the-way place, twenty-five miles 
from London, where I am trying to write and sleep, has 
been found by people to-day, who come in automobiles 
to know how they may reach their sick kinspeople in 
Germany. I have not had a bath for three days: as 
soon as I got in the tub, the telephone rang an "urgent" 
call! 

Upon my word, if one could forget the awful tragedy, 
all this experience would be worth a lifetime of common- 
place. One surprise follows another so rapidly that one 
loses all sense of time : it seems an age since last Sunday. 

I shall never forget Sir Edward Grey's telling me of the 
ultimatum — while he wept; nor the poor German Ambas- 
sador who has lost in his high game — almost a demented 
man ; nor the King as he declaimed at me for half-an-hour 
and threw up his hands and said, "My God, Mr. Page, 
what else could we do? " Nor the Austrian Ambassador's 
wringing his hands and weeping and crying out, "My 
dear Colleague, my dear Colleague." 

Along with all this tragedy come two reverend Ameri- 
can peace delegates who got out of Germany by the 
skin of their teeth and complain that they lost all the 
clothes they had except what they had on. "Don't 
complain," said I, "but thank God you saved your 
skins." Everybody has forgotten what war means — 
forgotten that folks get hurt. But they are coming 
around to it now. A United States Senator telegraphs 
me: "Send my wife and daughter home on the first 
ship." Ladies and gentlemen filled the steerage of that 
ship — not a bunk left; and his wife and daughter are 
found three days later sitting in a swell hotel waiting for 



310 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

me to bring them stateroom tickets on a silver tray ! One 
of my young fellows in the Embassy rushes into my office 
saying that a man from Boston, with letters of intro- 
duction from Senators and Governors and Secretaries, 
et al., was demanding tickets of admission to a picture 
gallery, and a secretary to escort him there. 

"What shall I do with him?" 

"Put his proposal to a vote of the 200 Americans in 
the room and see them draw and quarter him." 

I have not yet heard what happened. A woman writes 
me four pages to prove how dearly she loves my sister 
and invites me to her hotel — five miles away — "please 
to tell her about the sailing of the steamships." Six 
American preachers pass a resolution unanimously "urg- 
ing our Ambassador to telegraph our beloved, peace- 
loving President to stop this awful war"; and they come 
with simple solemnity to present their resolution. Lord 
save us, what a world ! 

And this awful tragedy moves on to — what? We 
do not know what is really happening, so strict is the 
censorship. But it seems inevitable to me that Germany 
will be beaten, that the horrid period of affiances and 
armaments will not come again, that England will gain 
even more of the earth's surface, that Russia may next 
play the menace; that all Europe (as much as survives) 
will be bankrupt; that relatively we shall be immensely 
stronger financially and politically — there must surely 
come many great changes — very many, yet undreamed 
of. Be ready; for you will be called on to compose this 
huge quarrel. I thank Heaven for many things — first, 
the Atlantic Ocean; second, that you refrained from war 
in Mexico; third, that we kept our treaty — the canal 
tolls victory, I mean. Now, when all this half of the 
world will suffer the unspeakable brutalization of war, 



THE GRAND SMASH 311 

we shall preserve our moral strength, our political powers, 
and our ideals. 
God save us! 

W. H. P. 

Vivid as is the above letter, it lacks several impressive 
details. Probably the one event that afterward stood 
out most conspicuously in Page's mind was his interview 
with Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary. Sir 
Edward asked the American Ambassador to call Tuesday 
afternoon; his purpose was to inform him that Great 
Britain had sent an ultimatum to Germany. By this 
time Page and the Foreign Secretary had established not 
only cordial official relations but a warm friendship. 
The two men had many things in common; they had the 
same general outlook on world affairs, the same ideas of 
justice and fair dealing, the same belief that other mo- 
tives than greed and aggrandizement should control the 
attitude of one nation to another. The political ten- 
dencies of both men were idealistic ; both placed character 
above everything else as the first requisite of a statesman ; 
both hated war, and looked forward to the time when 
more rational methods of conducting international re- 
lations would prevail. Moreover, their purely personal 
qualities had drawn Sir Edward and Page closely to- 
gether. A common love of nature and of out-of-door 
life had made them akin; both loved trees, birds, flowers, 
and hedgerows; the same intellectual diversions and 
similar tastes in reading had strengthened the tie. "I 
could never mention a book I liked that Mr. Page had 
not read and liked too," Sir Edward Grey once remarked 
to the present writer, and the enthusiasm that both men 
felt for Wordsworth's poetry in itself formed a strong bond 
of union. The part that the American Ambassador had 



312 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

played in the repeal of the Panama discrimination had 
also made a great impression upon this British statesman 
— a man to whom honour means more in international 
dealings than any other consideration. " 4 Mr. Page is 
one of the finest illustrations I have ever known," Grey 
once said, "of the value of character in a public man." 
In their intercourse for the past year the two men had 
grown accustomed to disregard all pretense of dip- 
lomatic technique; their discussions had been straight- 
forward man-to-man talks; there had been nothing sug- 
gestive of pose or finesse, and no attempts at cleverness 
— merely an effort to get to the bottom of things and to 
discover a common meeting ground. The Ambassador, 
moreover, represented a nation for which the Foreign 
Secretary had always entertained the highest respect and 
even affection, and he and Page could find no happier 
common meeting-ground than an effort to bring about 
the closest cooperation between the two countries. Sir 
Edward, far-seeing statesman that he was, had already 
appreciated, even amid the exciting and engrossing ex- 
periences through which he was then passing, the critical 
and almost determining part which the United States was 
destined to play in the war, and he had now sent for the 
American Ambassador because he believed that the Presi- 
dent was entitled to a complete explanation of the mo- 
mentous decision which Great Britain had just made. 

The meeting took place at three o'clock on Tuesday 
afternoon, August 4th — a fateful date in modern history. 
The time represented the interval which elapsed between 
the transmission of the British ultimatum to Germany 
and the hour set for the German reply. The place was 
that same historic room in the Foreign Office where so 
many interviews had already taken place and where so 
many were to take place in the next four years. As 



THE GRAND SMASH 313 

Page came in, Sir Edward, a tall and worn and rather 
pallid figure, was standing against the mantelpiece; he 
greeted the Ambassador with a grave handshake and the 
two men sat down. Overwrought the Foreign Secretary 
may have been, after the racking week which had just 
passed, but there was nothing flurried or excited in his 
manner; his whole bearing was calm and dignified, his 
speech was quiet and restrained, he uttered not one 
bitter word against Germany, but his measured accents 
had a sureness, a conviction of the justice of his course, 
that went home in almost deadly fashion. He sat in a 
characteristic pose, his elbows resting on the sides of his 
chair, his hands folded and placed beneath his chin, 
the whole body leaning forward eagerly and his eyes 
searching those of his American friend. The British 
Foreign Secretary was a handsome and an inspiring 
figure. He was a man of large, but of well knit, robust, 
and slender frame, wiry and even athletic ; he had a large 
head, surmounted with dark brown hair, slightly touched 
with gray; a finely cut, somewhat rugged and bronzed 
face, suggestive of that out-of-door life in which he had 
always found his greatest pleasure; light blue eyes that 
shone with straightforwardness and that on this occasion 
were somewhat pensive with anxiety; thin, ascetic lips 
that could smile in the most confidential manner or close 
tightly with grimness and fixed purpose. He was a man 
who was at the same time shy and determined, elusive 
and definite, but if there was one note in his bearing that 
predominated all others, it was a solemn and quiet sin- 
cerity. He seemed utterly without guile and mag- 
nificently simple. 

Sir Edward at once referred to the German invasion of 
Belgium. 

"The neutrality of Belgium," he said, and there was 



314 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the touch of finality in his voice, "is assured by treaty. 
Germany is a signatory power to that treaty. It is upon 
such solemn compacts as this that civilization rests. If 
we give them up, or permit them to be violated, what 
becomes of civilization? Ordered society differs from 
mere force only by such solemn agreements or compacts. 
But Germany has violated the neutrality of Belgium. 
That means bad faith. It means also the end of Bel- 
gium's independence. And it will not end with Belgium. 
Next will come Holland, and, after Holland, Denmark. 
This very morning the Swedish Minister informed me that 
Germany had made overtures to Sweden to come in on 
Germany's side. The whole plan is thus clear. This one 
great military power means to annex Belgium, Holland, 
and the Scandinavian states and to subjugate France." 

Sir Edward energetically rose; he again stood near the 
mantelpiece, his figure straightened, his eyes were fairly 
flashing — it was a picture, Page once told me, that was 
afterward indelibly fixed in his mind. 

"England would be forever contemptible," Sir Edward 
said, "if it should sit by and see this treaty violated. Its 
position would be gone if Germany were thus permitted to 
dominate Europe. I have therefore asked you to come 
to tell you that this morning we sent an ultimatum to 
Germany. We have told Germany that, if this assault 
on Belgium's neutrality is not reversed, England will 
declare war." 

"Do you expect Germany to accept it?" asked the 
Ambassador. 

Sir Edward shook his head. 

"No. Of course everybody knows that there will be 
war. 

There was a moment's pause and then the Foreign 
Secretary spoke again: 



THE GRAND SMASH 315 

"Yet we must remember that there are two Germanys. 
There is the Germany of men like ourselves — of men like 
Liehnowsky and Jagow. Then there is the Germany of men 
of the war party. The war party has got the upper hand. ' ' 

At this point Sir Edward's eyes filled with tears. 

"Thus the efforts of a lifetime go for nothing. I feel 
like a man who has wasted his life." 

"This scene was most affecting," Page said afterward. 
"Sir Edward not only realized what the whole thing 
meant, but he showed that he realized the awful responsi- 
bility for it." 

Sir Edward then asked the Ambassador to explain 
the situation to President Wilson; he expressed the hope 
that the United States would take an attitude of neutral- 
ity and that Great Britain might look for "the courtesies 
of neutrality" from this country. Page tried to tell him 
of the sincere pain that such a war would cause the Presi- 
dent and the American people. 

"I came away," the Ambassador afterward said, "with 
a sort of stunned sense of the impending ruin of half the 
world." 1 

The significant fact in this interview is that the British 
Foreign Secretary justified the attitude of his country 
exclusively on the ground of the violation of a treaty. 
This is something that is not yet completely understood 
in the United States. The participation of Great Britain 
in this great continental struggle is usually regarded as 
having been inevitable, irrespective of the German in- 
vasion of Belgium; yet the fact is that, had Germany 
not invaded Belgium, Great Britain would not have de- 
clared war, at least at this critical time. Sir Edward 

ir The materials on which this account is based are a memorandum of the inter- 
view made by Sir Edward Grey, now in the archives of the British Foreign Office, 
a similar memorandum made by Page, and a detailed description given verbally by 
Page to the writer. 



316 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

came to Page after a week's experience with a wavering 
cabinet. Upon the general question of Britain's partici- 
pation in a European war the Asquith Ministry had been 
by no means unanimous. Probably Mr. Asquith him- 
self and Mr. Lloyd George would have voted against 
taking such a step. It is quite unlikely that the cabinet 
could have carried a majority of the House of Commons 
on this issue. But the violation of the Belgian treaty 
changed the situation in a twinkling. The House of 
Commons at once took its stand in favour of intervention. 
All members of the cabinet, excepting John Morley and 
John Burns, who resigned, immediately aligned themselves 
on the side of war. In the minds of British statesmen 
the violation of this treaty gave Britain no choice. Ger- 
many thus forced Great Britain into the war, just as, two 
and a half years afterward, the Prussian war lords com- 
pelled the United States to take up arms. Sir Edward 
Grey's interview with the American Ambassador thus 
had great historic importance, for it makes this point clear. 
The two men had recently had many discussions on an- 
other subject in which the violation of a treaty was the 
great consideration — that of Panama tolls — and there 
was a certain appropriateness in this explanation of the 
British Foreign Secretary that precisely the same point 
had determined Great Britain's participation in the great- 
est struggle that has ever devastated Europe. 

Inevitably the question of American mediation had 
come to the surface in this trying time. Several days 
before Page's interview with Grey, the American Ambas- 
sador, acting in response to a cablegram from Washing- 
ton, had asked if the good offices of the United States 
could be used in any way. "Sir Edward is very ap- 
preciative of our mood and willingness," Page wrote in 
reference to this visit. "But they don't want peace on 



THE GRAND SMASH 317 

the continent — the ruling classes do not. But they will 
want it presently and then our opportunity will come. 
Ours is the only great government in the world that is 
not in some way entangled. Of course I'll keep in daily 
touch with Sir Edward and with everybody who can and 
will keep me informed." 

This was written about July 27th; at that time Austria 
had sent her ultimatum to Serbia but there was no cer- 
tainty that Europe would become involved in war. A 
demand for American mediation soon became widespread 
in the United States; the Senate passed a resolution 
requesting the President to proffer his good offices to 
that end. On this subject the following communications 
were exchanged between President Wilson and his chief 
adviser, then sojourning at his summer home in Massa- 
chusetts. Like Mr. Tumulty, the President's Secretary, 
Colonel House usually addressed the President in terms 
reminiscent of the days when Mr. Wilson was Governor 
of New Jersey. Especially interesting also are Colonel 
House's references to his own trip to Berlin and the joint 
efforts made by the President and himself in the preceding 
June to forestall the war which had now broken out. 

Edward M. House to the President 

Pride's Crossing (Mass.), 

August 3, 1914. [Monday.] 
The President, 

The White House, Washington, D. C. 
Dear Governor: 

Our people are deeply shocked at the enormity of this 
general European war, and I see here and there regret 
that you did not use your good offices in behalf of peace. 

If this groAvs into criticism so as to become noticeable 
I believe everyone would be pleased and proud that you 



318 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

had anticipated this world-wide horror and had done all 
that was humanly possible to avert it. 

The more terrible the war becomes, the greater credit 
it will be that you saw the trend of events long before 
it was seen by other statesmen of the world. 

Your very faithful, 

E. M. House. 

P. S. The question might be asked why negotiations 
were only with Germany and England and not with 
France and Russia. This, of course, was because it 
was thought that Germany would act for the Triple 
Alliance and England for the Triple Entente. 1 

The President to Edward M. House 

The White House, 
Washington, D. C. 
August 4th, 1914. [Tuesday.] 
Edward M. House, 

Pride's Crossing, Mass. 
Letter of third received. Do you think I could and 
should act now and if so how? 

Woodrow Wilson. 

Edward M. House to the President 
[Telegram] 

Pride's Crossing, Mass. 
August 5th, 1914. [Wednesday.] 
The President, 

The White House, Washington, D. C. 
Olney 2 and I agree that in response to the Senate reso- 

^olonel House, of course, is again referring to his experience in Rerlin and 
London, described in the preceding chapter. 

2 Richard Olney, Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Cleveland, who 
was a neighbour of Colonel House at his summer home, and with whom the latter 
apparently consulted. 



THE GRAND SMASH 319 

lution it would be unwise to tender your good offices at 
this time. We believe it would lessen your influence 
when the proper moment arrives. He thinks it advisable 
that you make a direct or indirect statement to the effect 
that you have done what was humanly possible to com- 
pose the situation before this crisis had been reached. 
He thinks this would satisfy the Senate and the public 
in view of your disinclination to act now upon the Senate 
resolution. The story might be told to the correspond- 
ents at Washington and they might use the expression 
"we have it from high authority." 

He agrees to my suggestion that nothing further should 
be done now than to instruct our different ambassadors 
to inform the respective governments to whom they are 
accredited, that you stand ready to tender your good 
offices whenever such an offer is desired. 

Olney agrees with me that the shipping bill 1 is full of 
lurking dangers. 

E. M. House. 

For some reason, however, the suggested statement was 
not made. The fact that Colonel House had visited 
London, Paris, and Berlin six weeks before the outbreak 
of war, in an effort to bring about a plan for disarmament, 
was not permitted to reach the public ear. Probably the 
real reason why this fact was concealed was that its pub- 
lication at that time would have reflected so seriously 
upon Germany that it would have been regarded as 
"un-neutral." Colonel House, as already described, 
had found Germany in a most belligerent frame of mind, 
its army "ready," to use the Kaiser's own word, for an 
immediate spring at France; on the other hand he had 

ir This is the bill passed soon after the outbreak of war admitting foreign built 
ships to American registry. Subsequent events showed that it was "full of lurk- 
ing dangers." 



320 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

found Great Britain in a most pacific frame of mind, en- 
tirely unsuspicious of Germany, and confident that the 
European situation was daily improving. It is interesting 
now to speculate on the public sensation that would have 
been caused had Colonel House's account of his visit to 
Berlin been published at that exciting time. 

Page's telegrams and letters show that any suggestion 
at mediation would have been a waste of effort. The 
President seriously forebore, but the desire to mediate 
was constantly in his mind for the next few months, and 
he now interested himself in laying the foundations of 
future action. Page was instructed to ask for an au- 
dience with King George and to present the following 
document: 

From the President of the United States 
to His Majesty the King 

Sir: 

As official head of one of the Powers signatory to the 
Hague Convention, I feel it to be my privilege and my 
duty under Article 3 of that Convention to say to your 
Majesty, in a spirit of most earnest friendship, that I 
should welcome an opportunity to act in the interest of 
European peace either now or at any time that might 
be thought more suitable as an occasion, to serve your 
Majesty and all concerned in a way that would afford 
me lasting cause for gratitude and happiness. 

Woodrow Wilson. 

This, of course, was not mediation, but a mere ex- 
pression of the President's willingness to mediate at any 
time that such a tender from him, in the opinion of the 
warring Powers, would serve the cause of peace. Identi- 
cally the same message was sent to the American Am- 



THE GRAND SMASH 321 

bassadors at the capitals of all the belligerent Powers for 
presentation to the heads of state. Page's letter of 
August 9th, printed above, refers to the earnestness and 
cordiality with which King George received him and to 
the freedom with which His Majesty discussed the situa- 
tion. 

In this exciting week Page was thrown into intimate 
contact with the two most pathetic figures in the dip- 
lomatic circle of London — the Austrian and the German 
Ambassadors. To both of these men the war was more 
than a great personal sorrow: it was a tragedy. Mens- 
dorff, the Austrian Ambassador, had long enjoyed an 
intimacy with the British royal family. Indeed he was a 
distant relative of King George , for he was a member of 
the family of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a fact which was em- 
phasized by his physical resemblance to Prince Albert, 
the consort of Queen Victoria. Mensdorff was not a 
robust man, physically or mentally, and he showed his 
consternation at the impending war in most unrestrained 
and even unmanly fashion. As his government directed 
him to turn the Austrian Embassy over to the American 
Ambassador, it was necessary for Page to call and arrange 
the details. The interview, as Page's letter indicates, 
was little less than a paroxysm of grief on the Austrian's 
part. He denounced Germany and the Kaiser; he pa- 
raded up and down the room wringing his hands ; he could 
be pacified only by suggestions from the American that 
perhaps something might happen to keep Austria out cf 
the war. The whole atmosphere of the Austrian Em- 
bassy radiated this same feeling. "Austria has no quar- 
rel with England," remarked one of Mensdorff's assistants 
to one of the ladies of the American Embassy; and this 
sentiment was the general one in Austrian diplomatic 
circles. The disinclination of both Great Britain and 



322 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Austria to war was so great that, as Page relates, for 
several days there was no official declaration. 

Even more tragical than the fate of the Austrian Am- 
bassador was that of his colleague, the representative of 
the German Emperor. It was more tragical because 
Prince Lichnowsky represented the power that was pri- 
marily responsible, and because he had himself been an 
unwilling tool in bringing on the cataclysm. It was 
more profound because Lichnowsky was a man of deeper 
feeling and greater moral purpose than his Austrian col- 
league, and because for two years he had been devoting 
his strongest energies to preventing the very calamity 
which had now become a fact. As the war went on 
Lichnowsky gradually emerged as one of its finest figures ; 
the pamphlet which he wrote, at a time when Germany's 
military fortunes were still high, boldly placing the re- 
sponsibility upon his own country and his own Kaiser, 
was one of the bravest acts which history records. 
Through all Iris brief Ambassadorship Lichnowsky had 
shown these same friendly traits. The mere fact that he 
had been selected as Ambassador at this time was little 
less than a personal calamity. His appointment gives a 
fair measure of the depths of duplicity to which the 
Prussian system could descend. For more than four- 
teen years Lichnowsky had led the quiet life of a Polish 
country gentleman; he had never enjoyed the favour of 
the Kaiser ; in his own mind and in that of his friends his 
career had long since been finished; yet from this retire- 
ment he had been suddenly called upon to represent the 
Fatherland at the greatest of European capitals. The 
motive for this elevation, which was unfathomable then, 
is evident enough now. Prince Lichnowsky was known 
to be an Anglophile; everything English — English litera- 
ture, English country life, English public men — had for 



THE GRAND SMASH 323 

him an irresistible charm; and his greatest ambition as 
a diplomat had been to maintain the most cordial re- 
lations between his own country and Great Britain. This 
was precisely the type of Ambassador that fitted into the 
Imperial purpose at that crisis. Germany was preparing 
energetically but quietly for war; it was highly essential 
that its most formidable potential foe, Great Britain, 
should be deceived as to the Imperial plans and lulled into 
a sense of security. The diabolical character of Prince 
Lichnowsky's selection for this purpose was that, though 
his mission was one of deception, he was not himself a 
party to it and did not realize until it was too late that he 
had been used merely as a tool. Prince Lichnowsky was 
not called upon to assume a mask ; all that was necessary 
was that he should simply be himself. And he acquitted 
himself with great success. He soon became a favourite 
in London society; the Foreign Office found him always 
ready to cooperate in any plan that tended to improve 
relations between the two countries. It will be remem- 
bered that, when Colonel House returned to London 
from his interview with the Kaiser in June, 1914, he 
found British statesmen incredulous about any trouble 
with Germany. This attitude was the consequence of 
Lichnowsky's work. The fact is that relations between 
the two countries had not been so harmonious in twenty 
years. All causes of possible friction had been adjusted. 
The treaty regulating the future of the Bagdad Railroad, 
the only problem that clouded the future, had been 
initialled by both the British and the German Foreign 
Offices and was about to be signed at the moment when 
the ultimatums began to fly through the air. Prince 
Lichnowsky was thus entitled to look upon his ambassa- 
dorship as one of the most successful in modern history, 
for it had removed all possible cause of war. 



324 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

And then suddenly came the stunning blow. For 
several days Lichnow sky's behaviour was that of an ir- 
responsible person. Those who came into contact with 
him found his mind wandering and incoherent. Page 
describes the German Ambassador as coming down and 
receiving him in his pajamas; he was not the only one 
who had that experience, for members of the British 
Foreign Office transacted business with this most punc- 
tilious of diplomats in a similar condition of personal 
disarray. And the dishabille extended to his mental 
operations as well. 

But Lichnowsky's and Mensdorff's behaviour merely 
portrayed the general atmosphere that prevailed in 
London during that week. Tins atmosphere was simply 
hysterical. Among all the intimate participants, how- 
ever, there was one man who kept his poise and who 
saw things clearly. That was the American Ambas- 
sador. It was certainly a strange trick which fortune 
had played upon Page. He had come to London with 
no experience in diplomacy. Though the possibility of 
such an outbreak as this war had been in every man's 
consciousness for a generation, it had always been as 
something certain yet remote; most men thought of it 
as most men think of death— as a fatality which is in- 
evitable, but which is so distant that it never becomes a 
reality. Thus Page, when he arrived in London, did not 
have the faintest idea of the experience that awaited 
him. Most people would have thought that his quiet and 
studious and unworldly life had hardly prepared him to. 
become the representative of the most powerful neutral 
power at the world's capital during the greatest crisis of 
modern history. To what an extent that impression was 
justified the happenings of the next four years will dis- 
close; it is enough to point out in this place that in one 



THE GRAND SMASH 325 

respect at least the war found the American Ambassador 
well prepared. From the instant hostilities began his 
mind seized the significance of it all. " Mr. Page had one 
fine qualification for his post," a great British statesman 
once remarked to the present writer. "From the be- 
ginning he saw that there was a right and a wrong to the 
matter. He did not believe that Great Britain and Ger- 
many were equally to blame. He believed that Great 
Britain was right and that Germany was wrong. I re- 
gard it as one of the greatest blessings of modern times 
that the United States had an ambassador in London in 
August, 1914, who had grasped this overwhelming fact. 
It seems almost like a dispensation of Providence." 

It is important to insist on this point now, for it ex- 
plains Page's entire course as Ambassador. The con- 
fidential telegram which Page sent directly to President 
Wilson in early September, 1914, furnishes the stand- 
point from which his career as war Ambassador can be 
understood : 

Confidential to the President 

September 11, 3 a. m. 
No. 645. 

Accounts of atrocities are so inevitably a part of every 
war that for some time I did not believe the unbelievable 
reports that were sent from Europe, and there are many 
that I find incredible even now. But American and other 
neutral observers who have seen these things in France 
and especially in Belgium now convince me that the 
Germans have perpetrated some of the most barbarous 
deeds in history. Apparently credible persons relate 
such things without end. 

Those who have violated the Belgian treaty, those who 
have sown torpedoes in the open sea, those who have 



326 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

dropped bombs on Antwerp and Paris indiscriminately 
with the idea of kiUing whom they may strike, have taken 
to heart Bernhardi's doctrine that war is a glorious oc- 
cupation. Can any one longer disbelieve the completely 
barbarous behaviour of the Prussians? 

Page. 



CHAPTER XI 

ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 

THE months following the outbreak of the war were 
busy ones for the American Embassy in London. 
The Embassies of all the great Powers with which Great 
Britain was contending were handed over to Page, and 
the citizens of these countries — Germany, Austria, Tur- 
key — who found themselves stranded in England, were 
practically made his wards. It is a constant astonish- 
ment to his biographer that, during all the labour and 
distractions of this period, Page should have found time 
to write long letters describing the disturbing scene. 
There are scores of them, all penned in the beautiful 
copper-plate handwriting that shows no signs of ex- 
citement or weariness, but is in itself an evidence of 
mental poise and of the sure grip which Page had upon 
the evolving drama. From the many sent in these 
autumn and early winter months the following selections 
are made: 

To Edward M. House 

September 22nd, 1914. 
My dear House: 

When the day of settlement comes, the settlement 
must make sure that the day of militarism is done and 
can come no more. If sheer brute force is to rule the 
world, it will not be worth living in. If German bureau- 
cratic brute force could conquer Europe, presently it 
would try to conquer the United States; and we should 

327 



328 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

all go back to the era of war as man's chief industry and 
back to the domination of kings by divine right. It 
seems to me, therefore, that the Hohenzollern idea must 
perish — be utterly strangled in the making of peace. 

Just how to do this, it is not yet easy to say. If the 
German defeat be emphatic enough and dramatic enough, 
the question may answer itself — how's the best way to 
be rid of the danger of the recurrence of a military bureau- 
cracy? But in any event, this thing must be killed for- 
ever — somehow. I think that a firm insistence on this 
is the main task that mediation will bring. The rest will 
be corollaries of this. 

The danger, of course, as all the world is beginning to 
fear, is that the Kaiser, after a local victory — especially 
if he should yet take Paris — will propose peace, saying 
that he dreads the very sight of blood — propose peace 
in time, as he will hope, to save his throne, his dynasty, 
his system. That will be a dangerous day. The horror 
of war will have a tendency to make many persons in the 
countries of the Allies accept it. All the peace folk in 
the world will say "Accept it!" But if he and his 
throne and his dynasty and his system be saved, in 
twenty-five years the whole job must be done over again. 

We are settling down to a routine of double work and 
to an oppression of gloom. Dead men, dead men, maimed 
men, the dull gray dread of what may happen next, the 
impossibility of changing the subject, the monotony of 
gloom, the consequent dimness of ideals, the overworking 
of the emotions and the heavy bondage of thought — the 
days go swiftly: that's one blessing. 

The diplomatic work proper brings fewer difficulties 
than you would guess. New subjects and new duties 
come with great rapidity, but they soon fall into formulas 
— at least into classes. We shall have no sharp crises nor 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 329 

grave difficulties so long as our Government and this 
Government keep their more than friendly relations. I 
see Sir Edward Grey almost every day. We talk of many 
things — all phases of one vast wreck ; and all the clear-cut 
points that come up I report by telegraph. To-day the 
talk was of American cargoes in British ships and the 
machinery they have set up here for fair settlement. 
Then of Americans applying for enlistment in Canadian 
regiments. "If sheer brute force conquer Europe," said 
he, "the United States will be the only country where life 
will be worth living; and in time you will have to fight 
against it, too, if it conquer Europe." He spoke of the 
letter he had just received from the President, and he 
asked me many sympathetic questions about you also 
and about your health. I ventured to express some solici- 
tude for him. 

"How much do you get out now?" 

"Only for an automobile drive Sunday afternoon." 

This from a man who is never happy away from nature 
and is at home only in the woods and along the streams. 
He looks worn. 

I hear nothing but satisfaction with our neutrality 
tight-rope walk. I think we are keeping it here, by close 
attention to our work and by silence. 

Our volunteer and temporary aids are doing well — 
especially the army and navy officers. We now occupy 
three work-places: (1) the over-crowded embassy; (2) 
a suite of offices around the corner where the ever- 
lengthening fist of inquiries for persons is handled and 
where an army officer pays money to persons whose friends 
have deposited it for them with the Government in Wash- 
ington — just now at the rate of about $15,000 a day; and 
(3) two great rooms at the Savoy Hotel, where the admir- 
able relief committee (which meets all trains that bring 



330 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

people from the continent) gives aid to the needy and 
helps people to get tickets home. They have this week 
helped about 400 with more or less money — after full 
investigation. 

At the Embassy a secretary remains till bed-time, which 
generally means till midnight; and I go back there for an 
hour or two every night. 

The financial help we give to German and Austrian 
subjects (poor devils) is given, of course, at their embassies, 
where we have men — our men — in charge. Each of these 
governments accepted my offer to give our Ambassadors 
(Gerard and Penfield) a sum of money to help Americans 
if I would set aside an equal sum to help their people here. 
The German fund that I thus began with was $50,000; 
the Austrian, $25,000. All this and more will be needed 
before the war ends. — All this activity is kept up with 
scrupulous attention to the British rules and regulations. 
In fact, we are helping this Government much in the man- 
agement of these "alien enemies," as they call them. 

I am amazed at the good health we all keep with this 
big volume of work and the long hours. Not a man nor a 
woman has been ill a day. I have known something 
about work and the spirit of good work in other organiza- 
tions of various sorts ; but I never saw one work in better 
spirit than this. And remember, most of them are volun- 
teers. 

The soldiers here complained for weeks in private about 
the lethargy of the people — the slowness of men to enlist. 
But they seemed to me to complain with insufficient rea- 
son. For now they come by thousands. They do need 
more men in the field, and they may conscript them, but 
I doubt the necessity. But I. run across such incidents 
as these: I met the Dowager Countess of D — yesterday 
— a woman of 65, as tall as I and as erect herself as a 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 331 

soldier, who might be taken for a woman of 40, prema- 
turely gray. "I had five sons in the Boer War. I have 
three in this war. I do not know where any one of them 
is." Mrs. Page's maid is talking of leaving her. "My 
two brothers have gone to the war and perhaps I ought to 
help their wives and children." The Countess and the 
maid are of the same blood, each alike unconquerable. 
My chauffeur has talked all day about the naval battle in 
which five German ships were lately sunk. 1 He reminded 
me of the night two months ago when he drove Mrs. Page 
and me to dine with Sir John and Lady Jellicoe — Jellicoe 
now, you know, being in command of the British fleet. 

This Kingdom has settled down to war as its one great 
piece of business now in hand, and it is impossible, as the 
busy, burdensome days pass, to pick out events or impres- 
sions that one can be sure are worth writing. For instance 
a soldier — a man in the War Office — told me to-day that 
Lord Kitchener had just told him that the war may last 
for several years. That, I confess, seems to me very im- 
probable, and (what is of more importance) it is not the 
notion held by most men whose judgment I respect. But 
all the military men say it will be long. It would take 
several years to kill that vast horde of Germans, but it 
will not take so long to starve them out. Food here is 
practically as cheap as it was three months ago and the sea 
routes are all open to England and practically all closed to 
Germany. The ultimate result, of course, will be Ger- 
many's defeat. But the British are now going about the 
business of war as if they knew they would continue it in- 
definitely. The grim efficiency of their work even in small 
details was illustrated to-day by the Government's in- 
forming us that a German handy man, whom the German 
Ambassador left at his Embassy, with the English Govern- 
evidently the battle of Heligoland Bight of August 28, 1914. 



332 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

merit's consent, is a spy — that he sends verbal messages 
to Germany by women who are permitted to go home, and 
that they have found letters written by him sewed in some 
of these women's undergarments! This man has been at 
work there every day under the two very good men whom 
I have put in charge there and who have never suspected 
him. How on earth they found this out simply passes 
my understanding. Fortunately it doesn't bring any em- 
barrassment to us ; he was not in our pay and he was left 
by the German Ambassador with the British Government's 
consent, to take care of the house. Again, when the Ger- 
man Chancellor made a statement two days ago about 
the causes of the war, in a few hours Sir Edward Grey 
issued a statement showing that the Chancellor had mis- 
stated every important historic fact. — The other day a 
commercial telegram was sent (or started) by Mr. Bryan 
for some bank or trading concern in the United States, 
managed by Germans, to some correspondent of theirs in 
Germany. It contained the words, "Where is Harry?" 
The censor here stopped it. It was brought to me with 
the explanation that "Harry " is one of the most notorious 
of German spies — whom they would like to catch. The 
English were slow in getting into full action, but now they 
never miss a trick, little or big. 

The Germans have far more than their match in re- 
sources and in shrewdness and — in character. As the 
bloody drama unfolds itself, the hollow pretence and es- 
sential barbarity of Prussian militarism become plainer 
and plainer: there is no doubt of that. And so does the 
invincibility of this race. A well-known Englishman told 
me to-day that his three sons, his son-in-law, and half his 
office men are in the military service, "where they belong 
in a time like this." The lady who once so sharply criti- 
cized this gentleman to Mrs. Page has a son and a brother 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 333 

in the army in France. It makes you take a fresh grip on 
your eyelids to hear either of these talk. In fact the strain 
on one's emotions, day in and day out, makes one wonder 
if the world is real — or is this a A r ast dream? From sheer 
emotional exhaustion I slept almost all day last Sunday, 
though I had not for several days lost sleep at all. Many 
persons tell me of their similar experiences. The universe 
seems muffled. There is a ghostly silence in London (so 
it seems) ; and only dim street lights are lighted at night. 
No experience seems normal. A vast organization is 
working day and night down town receiving Belgian 
refugees. They become the guests of the English. They 
are assigned to people's homes, to boarding houses, to 
institutions. They are taking care of them — this govern- 
ment and this people are. I do not recall when one nation 
ever did another whole nation just such a hospitable ser- 
vice as this. You can't see that work going on and re- 
main unmoved. An old woman who has an income of $15 
a week decided that she could live on $7.50. She buys milk 
with the other $7.50 and goes to meet every train at one 
of the big stations with a basket filled with baby bottles, 
and she gives milk to every hungry-looking baby she sees. 
Our American committeeman, Hoover, saw her in trouble 
the other day and asked her what was the matter. She 
explained that the police would no longer admit her to the 
platform because she didn't belong to any relief committee. 
He took her to headquarters and said: "Do you see this 
good old lady? She puts you and me and everybody else 
to shame- -do you understand?' ' The old lady now gets to 
the platform. Hoover himself gave $5,000 for helping 
stranded Americans and he goes to the trains to meet them, 
while the war has stopped his big business and his big 
income. This is a sample of the noble American end of 
the story. 



334 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

These are the saving class of people to whom life be- 
comes a bore unless they can help somebody. There's 
just such a fellow in Brussels — you may have heard of 
him, for his name is Whitlock. Stories of his showing 
himself a man come out of that closed-up city every week. 
To a really big man, it doesn't matter whether his post is a 
little post, or a big post but, if I were President, I'd give 
Whitlock a big post. There's another fellow somewhere 
in Germany — a consul — of whom I never heard till the 
other day. But people have taken to coming in my office 
— English ladies — who wish to thank "you and your great 
government" for the courage and courtesy of this consul. 1 
Stories about him will follow. Herri ck, too, in Paris, 
somehow causes Americans and English and even Guate- 
malans who come along to go out of their way to say what 
he has done for them. Now there is a quality in the old 
woman with the baby bottles, and in the consul and in 
Whitlock and Hoover and Herrick and this English nation 
which adopts the Belgians — a quality that is invincible. 
When folk like these come down the road, I respectfully do 
obeisance to them. And — it's this kind of folk that the 
Germans have run up against. I thank Heaven I'm of 
their race and blood. 

The whole world is bound to be changed as a result of 
this war. If Germany should win, our Monroe Doctrine 
would at once be shot in two, and we should have to get 
"out of the sun." The military party is a party of con- 
quest — absolutely. If England wins, as of course she 
will, it'll be a bigger and a stronger England, with no 
strong enemy in the world, with her Empire knit closer 
than ever — India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South 
Africa, Egypt; under obligations to and in alliance with 

'The reference in all probability is to Mr. Charles L. Hoover, at that time 
American Consul at Carlsbad. 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 335 

Russia ! England will not need our friendship as much as 
she now needs it; and there may come governments here 
that will show they do not. In any event, you see, the 
world will be changed. It's changed already: witness 
Bernstorff 1 and Munsterberg 2 playing the part once played 
by Irish agitators! 

All of which means that it is high time we were con- 
structing a foreign service. First of all, Congress ought 
to make it possible to have half a dozen or more permanent 
foreign under-secretaries — men who, after service in the 
Department, could go out as Ministers and Ambassadors; 
it ought generously to reorganize the whole thing. It 
ought to have a competent study made of the foreign 
offices of other governments. Of course it ought to get 
room to work in. Then it ought at once to give its 
Ambassadors and Ministers homes and dignified treat- 
ment. We've got to play a part in the world whether we 
wish to or not. Think of these things. 

The blindest great force in this world to-day is the 
Prussian War Party — blind and stupid. —Well, and the 
most weary man in London just at this hour is 

Your humble servant, 

W. H. P 
but he'll be all right in the morning. 

To Arthur W. Page 

[Undated] 3 
Dear Arthur: 

. . . I recall one night when we were dining at Sir 
John Jellicoe's, he told me that the Admiralty never slept 
— that he had a telephone by his bed every night. 

1 German Ambassador in Washington. 

2 Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, whose openly expressed pro- 
Germanism was making him exceedingly unpopular in the United States. 

3 Evidently written in the latter part of September, 1914. 



336 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"Did it ever ring?" I asked. 
"No; but it will." 

You begin to see pretty clearly how English history 
has been made and makes itself. This afternoon Lady 

S told your mother of her three sons, one on a warship 

in the North Sea, another with the army in France, and 
a third in training to go. "How brave you all are! " said 
your mother, and her answer was: "They belong to their 
country; we can't do anything else." One of the 
daughters-in-law of the late Lord Salisbury came to see 
me to find out if I could make an inquiry about her son 
who was reported "missing" after the battle of Mons. 
She was dry-eyed, calm, self-restrained — very grateful 
for the effort I promised to make; but a Spartan woman 
would have envied her self-possession. It turned out 
that her son was dead. 

You hear experiences like these almost every day. 
These are the kinds of women and the kinds of men that 
have made the British Empire and the English race. You 
needn't talk of decadence. All their great qualities are 
in them here and now. I believe that half the young men 
who came to Katharine's 1 dances last winter and who used 
to drop in at the house once in a while are dead in France 
already. They went as a matter of course. This is the 
reason they are going to win. Now these things impress 
you, as they come to you day by day. 

There isn't any formal social life now — no dinners, no 
parties. A few friends dine with a few friends now and 
then very quietly. The ladies of fashion are hospital 
nurses and Red Cross workers, or they are collecting 
socks and blankets for the soldiers. One such woman 
told your mother to-day that she went to one of the re- 
cruiting camps every day and taught the young fellows 

iMiss Katharine A. Page, the Ambassador's daughter. 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 337 

what colloquial French she could. Every man, woman, 
and child seems to be doing something. In the ordinary 
daily life, we see few of them : everybody is at work some- 
where. 

We live in a world of mystery : nothing can surprise us. 
The rumour is that a servant in one of the great families 
sent word to the Germans where the three English cruisers 1 
were that German submarines blew T up the other day. 
Not a German in the Kingdom can earn a penny. We're 
giving thousands of them money at the German Embassy 
to keep them alive. Our Austrian Embassy runs a soup 
kitchen where it feeds a lot of Austrians. Your mother 
went around there the other day and they showed that 
they thought they owe their daily bread to her. One day 
she went to one of the big houses where the English re- 
ceive and distribute the thousands of Belgians who come 
here, poor creatures, to be taken care of. One old woman 
asked your mother in French if she were a princess. The 
lady that was with your mother answered, "Une Grande 
Dame." That seemed to do as well. 

This government doesn't now let anybody carry any 
food away. But to-day they consented on condition I'd 
receive the food (for the Belgians) and consign it to Whit- 
lock. This is their way of keeping it out of German hands 
-have the Stars and Stripes, so to speak, to cover every 
bag of flour and of salt. That's only one of 1,000 queer 
activities that I engage in. I have a German princess's 2 
jewels in our safe — $100,000 worth of them in my keeping; 
I have an old English nobleman's check for $40,000 to be 
sent to men who have been building a house for his daugh- 



x The Hogur, the Cressy, and the Aboukir were torpedoed by a German submarine 
September 22, 1914. This exploit first showed the world the power of the sub- 
marine. 

2 Princess Lichnowsky, wife of the German Ambassador to Great Britain. 



338 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

ter in Dresden — to be sent as soon as the German Govern- 
ment agrees not to arrest the lady for debt. I have sent 
Miss Latimer 1 over to France to bring an Austrian baby 
eight months old whose mother will take it to the United 
States and bring it up an American citizen! The mother 
can't go and get it for fear the French might detain her; 
I've got the English Government's permission for the 
family to go to the United States. Harold 2 is in Belgium, 
trying to get a group of English ladies home who went 
there to nurse wounded English and Belgians and whom 
the Germans threaten to kidnap and transport to German 
hospitals — every day a dozen new kinds of jobs. 

London is weird and muffled and dark and, in the West 
End, deserted. Half the lamps are not lighted, and the 
upper half of the globes of the street lights are painted 
black — so the Zeppelin raiders may not see them. You've 
no idea what a strange feeling it gives one. The papers 
have next to no news. The 23rd day of the great battle 
is reported very much in the same words as the 3rd day 
was. Yet nobody talks of much else. The censor erases 
most of the matter the correspondents write. We're in 
a sort of dumb as well as dark world. And yet, of course, 
we know much more here than they know in any other 
European capital. 

To the President 

[Undated.] 
Dear Mr. President: 

When England, France, and Russia agreed the other 
day not to make peace separately, that cooked the Kaiser's 
goose. They'll wear him out. Since England thus has 
Frenchmen and Russians bound, the Allies are strength- 

'Private Secretary to Mrs. Page. 

2 Mr. Harold Fowler, the Ambassador's Secretary. 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 339 

ened at their only weak place. That done, England is 
now going in deliberately, methodically, patiently to do the 
task. Even a fortnight ago, the people of this Kingdom 
didn't realize all that the war means to them. But the 
fever is rising now. The wounded are coming back, the 
dead are mourned, and the agony of hearing only that 
such-and-such a man is missing — these are having a pro- 
digious effect. The men I meet now say in a matter-of- 
fact way: "Oh, yes! we'll get em, of course; the only 
question is, how long it will take us and how many of us 
it will cost. But no matter, we'll get 'em." 

Old ladies and gentlemen of the high, titled world now 
begin by driving to my house almost every morning while 
I am at breakfast. With many apologies for calling so 
soon and with the fear that they interrupt me, they ask if 
I can make an inquiry in Germany for "my son," or 
"my nephew" "he's among the missing." They never 
weep ; their voices do not falter ; they are brave and proud 
and self-restrained. It seems a sort of matter-of-course 
to them. Sometimes when they get home, they write 
me polite notes thanking me for receiving them. This 
morning the first man was Sir Dighton Probyn of Queen 
Alexandra's household — so dignified and courteous that 
you'd hardly have guessed his errand. And at intervals 
they come all day. Not a tear have I seen yet. They 
take it as a part of the price of greatness and of empire. 
You guess at their grief only by their reticence. They 
use as few words as possible and then courteously take 
themselves away. It isn't an accident that these people 
own a fifth of the world. Utterly unwarlike, they outlast 
anybody else when war comes. You don't get a sense 
of fighting here — only of endurance and of high resolve. 
Fighting is a sort of incident in the struggle to keep their 
world from German domination. . . . 



340 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

To Edward M. House 

October 11, 1914. 
Dear House: 

There is absolutely nothing to write. It's war, war, 
war all the time ; no change of subject ; and, if you changed 
with your tongue, you couldn't change in your thought; 
war, war, war — "for God's sake find out if my son is dead 
or a prisoner"; rumours — they say that two French gen- 
erals were shot for not supporting French, and then they 
say only one ; and people come who have helped take the 
wounded French from the field and they won't even talk, it 
is so horrible ; and a lady says that her own son (wounded) 
told her that when a man raised up in the trench to fire, 
the stench was so awful that it made him sick for an 
hour; and the poor Belgians come here by the tens of 
thousands, and special trains bring the English wounded ; 
and the newspapers tell little or nothing — every day's 
reports like the preceding days'; and yet nobody talks 
about anything else. 

Now and then the subject of its settlement is men- 
tioned — Belgium and Serbia, of course, to be saved and 
as far as possible indemnified; Russia to have the Slav- 
Austrian States and Constantinople; France to have 
Alsace-Lorraine, of course; and Poland to go to Russia; 
Schleswig-Holstein and the Kiel Canal no longer to be 
German; all the South-German States to become Austrian 
and none of the German States to be under Prussian rule ; 
the Hohenzollerns to be eliminated; the German fleet, 
or what is left of it, to become Great Britain's ; and the 
German colonies to be used to satisfy such of the Allies 
as clamour for more than they get. 

Meantime this invincible race is doing this revolution- 
ary task marvellously — volunteering; trying to buy arms 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 341 

in the United States (a Pittsburgh manufacturer is now 
here trying to close a bargain with the War Office!); 1 
knitting socks and mufflers; taking in all the poor Bel- 
gians; stopping all possible expenditure; darkening Lon- 
don at night; doing every conceivable thing to win as if 
they had been waging this war always and meant to do 
nothing else for the rest of their lives — and not the slight- 
est doubt about the result and apparently indifferent how 1 
long it lasts or how much it costs. 

Every aspect of it gets on your nerves. I can't keep 
from wondering how the world will seem after it is over — 
Germany (that is, Prussia and its system) cut out like a 
cancer ; England owning still more of the earth ; Belgium — 
all the men dead; France bankrupt; Russia admitted to 
the society of nations ; the British Empire entering on a 
new lease of life ; no great navy but one ; no great army 
but the Russian ; nearly all governments in Europe bank- 
rupt ; Germany gone from the sea — in ten years it will be 
difficult to recall clearly the Europe of the last ten years. 
And the future of the world more than ever in our hands ! 

We here don't know what you think or what you know 
at home; we haven't yet any time to read United States 
newspapers, which come very, very late; nobody writes 
us real letters (or the censor gets 'em, perhaps !) ; and so 
the war, the war, the war is the one thing that holds our 
minds. 

We have taken a house for the Chancery 2 — almost the 
size of my house in Grosvenor Square — for the same 
sum as rent that the landlord proposed hereafter to charge 
us for the old hole where we've been for twenty-nine 
years. For the first time Uncle Sam has a decent place 

1 Probably a reference to Mr. Charles M. Schwab, President of the Bethlthem 
Steel Company, who was in London at this time on this errand. 

2 No. 4 Grosvenor Gardens. 



342 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

in London. We've five times as much room and ten 
times as much work. Now — just this last week or two — 
I get off Sundays: that's doing well. And I don't now 
often go back at night. So, you see, we've much to be 
thankful for. — Shall we insure against Zeppelins? That's 
what everybody's asking. I told the Spanish Ambas- 
sador yesterday that I am going to ask the German Gov- 
ernment for instructions about insuring their Embassy 
here! 

Write and send some news. I saw an American to-day 
who says he's going home to-morrow. "Cable me," 
said I, "if you find the continent where it used to be." 

Faithfully yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

P. S. It is strange how little we know what you know 
on your side and just what you think, what relative value 
you put on this and what on that. There's a new sort 
of loneliness sprung up because of the universal absorp- 
tion in the war. 

And I hear all sorts of contradictory rumours about 
the effect of the German crusade in the United States. 
Oh well, the world has got to choose whether it will have 
English or German domination in Europe ; that's the single 
big question at issue. For my part I'll risk the English 
and then make a fresh start ourselves to outstrip them 
in the spread of well-being; in the elevation of mankind 
of all classes ; in the broadening of democracy and demo- 
cratic rule (which is the sheet-anchor of all men's hopes 
just as bureaucracy and militarism are the destruction 
of all men's hopes) ; in the spread of humane feeling and 
action; in the growth of human kindness; in the tender 
treatment of women and children and the old ; in litera- 
ture, in art ; in the abatement of suffering; in great changes 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 343 

in economic conditions which discourage poverty; and in 
science which gives us new leases on life and new tools 
and wider visions. These are our world tasks, with Eng- 
land as our friendly rival and helper. God bless us. 

W. H. P. 

To Arthur W. Page 

London, November 6, 1914. 
Dear Arthur : 

Those excellent photographs, those excellent apples, 
those excellent cigars — thanks. I'm thinking of sending 
Kitty 1 over again. They all spell and smell and taste 
of home — of the U. S. A. Even the messenger herself 
seems Unitedstatesy, and that's a good quality, I assure 
you. She's told us less news than you'd think she might 
for so long a journey and so long a visit; but that's the 
way with us all. And, I dare say, if it were all put to- 
gether it would make a pretty big news-budget. And 
luckily for us (I often think we are among the luckiest 
families hi the world) all she says is quite cheerful. It's 
a wonderful report she makes of County Line 2 — the coun- 
try, the place, the house, and its inhabitants. Maybe, 
praise God, I'll see it myself some day — it and them. 

But — but — I don't know when and can't guess out of 
this vast fog of war and doom. The worst of it is nobody 
knows just what is happening. I have, for an example, 
known for a week of the blowing up of a British dread- 
naught 3 — thousands of people know it privately — and yet 
it isn't published! Such secrecy makes you fear there 
may be other and even worse secrets. But I don't really 

J Miss Katharine A. Page had just returned from a visit to the United States. 

2 Mr. Arthur W. Page's country home on Long Island. 

3 Evidently the Audacious, sunk by mine off the North of Ireland, October 27, 
1914. 



344 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

believe there are. What I am trying to say is, so far as 
news (and many other things) go, we are under a military 
rule. 

It's beginning to wear on us badly. It presses down, 
presses down, presses down in an indescribable way. 
All the people you see have lost sons or brothers; mourn- 
ing becomes visible over a wider area all the time; peo- 
ple talk of nothing else; all the books are about the war; 
ordinary social life is suspended — people are visibly 
growing older. And there are some aspects of it that are 
incomprehensible. For instance, a group of American 
and English military men and correspondents were talk- 
ing with me yesterday — men who have been on both 
sides — in Germany and Belgium and in France — and they 
say that the Germans in France alone have had 750,000 
men killed. The Allies have lost 100,000 to 500,000. 
This in France only. Take the other fighting lines and 
there must already be a total of 2,000,000 killed. No- 
thing like that has ever happened before in the history 
of the world. A flood or a fire or a wreck which has 
killed 500 has often shocked all mankind. Yet we know 
of this enormous slaughter and (in a way) are not greatly 
moved. I don't know of a better measure of the brutal- 
izing effect of war — it's bringing us to take a new and more 
inhuman standard to measure events by. 

As for any political or economic reckoning — that's 
beyond any man's ability yet. I see strings of incom- 
prehensible figures that some economist or other now and 
then puts in the papers, summing up the loss in pounds 
sterling. But that means nothing because we have no 
proper measure of it. If a man lose $10 or $10,000 we 
can grasp that. But when nations shoot away so many 
million pounds sterling every day — that means nothing 
to me. I do know that there's going to be no money on 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 345 

this side the world for a long time to buy American se- 
curities. The whole world is going to be hard up in con- 
sequence of the bankruptcy of these nations, the inestim- 
able destruction of property, and the loss of productive 
men. I fancy that such a change will come in the eco- 
nomic and financial readjustment of the world as nobody 
can yet guess at. — Are Americans studying these things? 
It is not only South- American trade; it is all sorts of 
manufacturers; it is financial influence — if we can quit 
spending and wasting, and husband our earnings. There's 
no telling the enormous advantages we shall gain if we 
are wise. 

The extent to which the German people have permitted 
themselves to be fooled is beyond belief. As a little in- 
stance of it, I enclose a copy of a letter that Lord Bryce 
gave me, written by an English woman who did good 
social work in her early fife — a woman of sense — and 
who married a German merchant and has spent her mar- 
ried life in Germany. She is a wholly sincere person. 
This letter she wrote to a friend in England and — she 
believes every word of it. If she believes it, the great 
mass of the Germans believe similar things. I have 
heard of a number of such letters — sincere, as this one is. 
It gives a better insight into the average German mind 
than a hundred speeches by the Emperor. 

This German and Austrian diplomatic business in- 
volves an enormous amount of work. I've now sent one 
man to Vienna and another to Berlin to straighten out 
almost hopeless tangles and lies about prisoners and such 
things and to see if they won't agree to swap more ci- 
vilians detained in each country. On top of these, yester- 
day came the Turkish Embassy! Alas, we shall never 
see old Tewfik 1 again! This business begins briskly to-day 

x Tewfik Pasha, the very popular Turkish Ambassador to Great Britain. 



346 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

with the detention of every Turkish consul in the Brit- 
ish Empire. Lord ! I dread the missionaries ; and I know 
they're coming now. This makes four embassies. We 
put up a sign, "The American Embassy," on every 
one of them. Work? We're worked to death. Two 
nights ago I didn't get time to read a letter or even a 
telegram that had come that day till 1 1 o'clock at night. 
For on top of all these Embassies, I've had to become 
Commissary-General to feed 6,000,000 starving people in 
Belgium; and practically all the food must come from the 
United States. You can't buy food for export in any 
country in Europe. The devastation of Belgium de- 
feats the Germans.— I don't mean in battle but I mean 
in the after-judgment of mankind. They cannot recover 
from that half as soon as they may recover from the 
economic losses of the war. The reducing of those people 
to starvation — that will stick to damn them in history, 
whatever they win or whatever they lose. 

When's it going to end? Everybody who ought to 
know says at the earliest next year — next summer. Many 
say in two years. As for me, I don't know. I don't see 
how it can end soon. Neither can lick the other to a 
frazzle and neither can afford to give up till it is com- 
pletely licked. This way of living in trenches and fighting 
a month at a time in one place is a new thing in warfare. 
Many a man shoots a cannon all day for a month without 
seeing a single enemy. There are many wounded men 
back here who say they haven't seen a single German. 
When the trenches become so full of dead men that the 
living can't stay there longer, they move back to other 
trenches. So it goes on. Each side has several more 
million men to lose. What the end will be — I mean when 
it will come, I don't see how to guess. The Allies are 
obliged to win; they have more food and more money, 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 317 

and in the long run, more men. But the German fighting 
machine is by far the best organization ever made — not 
the best men, but the best organization; and the whole 
German people believe what the woman writes whose 
letter I send you. It'll take a long time to beat it. 

Affectionately, 

W. H. P. 

The letter that Page inclosed, and another copy of 
which was sent to the President, purported to be written 
by the English wife of a German in Bremen. It was as 
follows : 

It is very difficult to write, more difficult to believe 
that what I write will succeed in reaching you. My 
husband insists on my urging you — it is not necessary I 
am sure — to destroy the letter and all possible indications 
of its origin, should you think it worth translating. The 
letter will go by a business friend of my husband's to 
Holland, and be got off from there. For our business 
with Holland is now exceedingly brisk as you may under- 
stand. Her neutrality is most precious to us. 1 

Well, I have of course a divided mind. I think of those 
old days in Liverpool and Devonshire — how far off they 
seem! And yet I spent all last year in England. It was 
in March last when I was with you and we talked of the 
amazing treatment of your army — I cannot any longer 
call it our army — by ministers crying for the resignation 
of its officers and eager to make their humiliation an 
election cry! How far off that seems, too! Let me 
tell you that it was the conduct of your ministers, Church- 
ill especially, that made people here so confident that your 

Germany was conducting her trade with the neutral world largely through 
Dutch and Danish ports. 



348 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Government could not fight. It seemed impossible that 
Lloyd George and his following could have the effrontery 
to pose as a "war" cabinet; still more impossible that 
any sane people could trust them if they did ! Perhaps 
you may remember a talk we had also in March about 
Matthew Arnold whom I was reading again during my 
convalescence at Sidmouth. You said that "Friend- 
ship's Garland" and its Arminius could not be written 
now. I disputed that and told you that it was still true 
that your Government talked and "gassed" just as much 
as ever, and were wilfully blind to the fact that your 
power of action Avas wholly unequal to your words. As 
in 1870 so now. Nay, worse, your rulers have always 
known it perfectly well, but refused to see it or to admit 
it, because they wanted office and knew that to say the 
truth would bring the radical vote in the cities upon their 
poor heads. It is the old hypocrisy, in the sense in which 
Germans have always accused your nation: alas! and it 
is half my nation too. You pride yourselves on " Keeping 
your word" to Belgium. But you pride yourselves also, 
not so overtly just now, on always refusing to prepare 
yourselves to keep that word in deed. In the first days 
of August you knew, absolutely and beyond all doubt, 
that you could do nothing to make good your word. You 
had not the moral courage to say so, and, having said 
so, to act accordingly and to warn Belgium that your 
promise was "a scrap of paper," and effectively nothing 
more. It is nothing more, and has proved to be nothing 
more, but you do not see that your indelible disgrace lies 
just in this, that you unctuously proclaim that you are 
keeping your word when all the time you know, you have 
always known, that you refused utterly and completely 
to take the needful steps to enable you to translate word 
into action. Have you not torn up your "scrap of 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 349 

paper" just as effectively as Germany has? As my 
husband puts it: England gave Belgium a check, a big 
check, and gave it with much ostentation, but took 
care that there should be no funds to meet it! Trusting 
to your check Belgium finds herself bankrupt, seques- 
trated, blotted out as a nation. But I know England well 
enough to foresee that English statesmen, with our old 
friend, the Manchester Guardian, which we used to read 
in years gone by, will always quote with pride how they 
"guaranteed" the neutrality of Belgium. 

As to the future. You cannot win. A nation that has 
prided itself on making no sacrifice for political power or 
even independence must pay for its pride. Our house 
here in Bremen has lately been by way of a centre for 
naval men, and to a less extent, for officers of the neigh- 
bouring commands. They are absolutely confident that 
they will land ten army corps in England before Christ- 
mas. It is terrible to know what they mean to go for. 
They mean to destroy. Every town which remotely is 
concerned with war material is to be annihilated. 
Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, 
Northampton are to be wiped out, and the men killed, 
ruthlessly hunted down. The fact that Lancashire and 
Yorkshire have held aloof from recruiting is not to save 
them. The fact that Great Britain is to be a Reichsland 
will involve the destruction of inhabitants, to enable Ger- 
man citizens to be planted in your country in their place. 
German soldiers hope that your poor creatures will re- 
sist, as patriots should, but they doubt it very much. 
For resistance will facilitate the process of clearance. 
Ireland will be left independent, and its harmlessness will 
be guaranteed by its inevitable civil war. 

You may wonder, as I do sometimes, whether this 
hatred of England is not unworthy, or a form of mental 



350 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

disease. But you must know that it is at bottom not 
hatred but contempt; fierce, unreasoning scorn for a 
country that pursues money and ease, from aristocrat to 
trade-unionist labourer, when it has a great inheritance to 
defend. I feel bitter, too, for I spent half my life in your 
country and my dearest friends are all English still; and 
yet I am deeply ashamed of the hypocrisy and make- 
believe that has initiated your national policy and brought 
you down. Now, one thing more. England is, after all, 
only a stepping stone. From Liverpool, Queenstown, 
Glasgow, Belfast, we shall reach out across the ocean. I 
firmly believe that within a year Germany will have 
seized the new Canal and proclaimed its defiance of the 
great Monroe Doctrine. We have six million Germans 
in the United States, and the Irish-Americans behind 
them. The Americans, believe me, are as a nation a 
cowardly nation, and mil never fight organized strength 
except in defense of their own territories. With the Nova 
Scotian peninsula and the Bermudas, with the West 
Indies and the Guianas we shall be able to dominate the 
Americas. By our possession of the entire Western Euro- 
pean seaboard America can find no outlet for its products 
except by our favour. Her finance is in German hands, 
her commercial capitals, New York and Chicago, are in 
reality German cities. It is some years since my father 
and I were in New York. But my opinion is not very 
different from that of the forceful men who have planned 
this war — that with Britain as a base the control of the 
American continent is under existing conditions the task 
of a couple of months. 

I remember a conversation with Doctor Dohrn, the 
head of the great biological station at Naples, some four 
or five years ago. He was complaining of want of ade- 
quate subventions from Berlin. "Everything is wanted 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF AVAR 351 

for the Navy," he said. "And what really does Ger- 
many want with such a navy?" I asked. "She is always 
saying that she certainly does not regard it as a weapon 
against England." At that Doctor Dohrn raised his 
eyebrows. "But you, gnadige Fran, are a German?" 
"Of course." "Well, then, you will understand me when 
I say with all the seriousness I can command that this 
fleet of ours is intended to deal with smugglers on the 
shores of the Island of Riigen." I laughed. He became 
graver still. "The ultimate enemy of our country is 
America ;* and I pray that I may see the day of an alliance 
between a beaten England and a victorious Fatherland 
against the bully of the Americas." Well, Germany and 
Austria were never friends until Sadowa had shown the 
way. Oh ! if your country, which in spite of all I love so 
much, would but "see things clearly and see them whole." 
Bremen, September 25, 1914. 

To Ralph W. Page 2 

London, Sunday, November 15, 1914. 
Dear Ralph: 

You were very good to sit down in Greensboro', or any- 
where else, and to write me a fine letter. Do that often. 
You say there's nothing to do now in the Sandhills. 
Write us letters : that's a fair job ! 

God save us, we need 'em. We need anything from 
the sane part of the w orld to enable us to keep our bal- 
ance. One of the commonest things you hear about now 
is the insanity of a good number of the poor fellows who 
come back from the trenches as well as of a good many 

J Mr. Irwin Laughlin, first secretary of the American Embassy in London, fur- 
nishes this note: "This statement about America was made to me more than 
once in Germany, between 1910 and 1912, by German officers, military and 
naval." 

2 Of Pinehurst, North Carolina, the Ambassador's oldest son. 



352 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Belgians. The sights and sounds they've experienced un- 
hinge their reason. If this war keep up long enough — 
and it isn't going to end soon — people who have had no 
sight of it will go crazy, too— the continuous thought of 
it, the inability to get away from it by any device what- 
ever — all this tells on us all. Letters, then, plenty of 
them — let 'em come. 

You are in a peaceful land. The war is a long, long 
way off. You suffer nothing worse than a little idleness 
and a little poverty. They are nothing. I hope (and 
believe) that you get enough to eat. Be content, then. 
Read the poets, improve a piece of land, play with the 
baby, learn golf. That's the happy and philosophic and 
fortunate life in these times of world-madness. 

As for the continent of Europe — forget it. We have 
paid far too much attention to it. It has ceased to be 
worth it. And now it's of far less value to us -and will be 
for the rest of your life — than it has ever been before. An 
ancient home of man, the home, too, of beautiful things — 
buildings, pictures, old places, old traditions, dead civili- 
zations — the place where man rose from barbarism to 
civilization — it is now bankrupt, its best young men dead, 
its system of politics and of government a failure, its social 
structure enslaving and tyrannical — it has little help for 
us. The American spirit, which is the spirit that con- 
cerns itself with making life better for the whole mass of 
men — that's at home at its best with us. The whole 
future of the race is in the new countries — our country 
chiefly. This grows on one more and more and more. 
The things that are best worth while are on our side of the 
ocean. And we've got all the bigger job to do because of 
this violent demonstration of the failure of continental 
Europe. It's gone on living on a false basis till its ele- 
ments got so mixed that it has simply blown itself to 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 353 

pieces. It is a great convulsion of nature, as an earth- 
quake or a volcano is. Human life there isn't worth 
what a yellow dog's life is worth in Moore County. Don't 
bother yourself with the continent of Europe any more — 
except to learn the value of a real democracy and the 
benefits it can confer precisely in proportion to the extent 
to which men trust to it. Did you ever read my Ad- 
dress delivered before the Royal Institution of Great 
Britain? 1 I enclose a copy. Now that's my idea of the 
very milk of the word. To come down to daily, deadly 
things — this upheaval is simply infernal. Parliament 
opened the other day and half the old lords that sat in 
their robes had lost their heirs and a larger part of the 
members of the House wore khaki. To-morrow they will 
vote $1,125,000,000 for war purposes. They had already 
voted $500,000,000. They'll vote more, and more, and 
more, if necessary. They are raising a new army of 2,000,- 
000 men. Every man and every dollar they have will go 
if necessary. That's what I call an invincible people. 
The Kaiser woke up the wrong passenger. But for fifty 
years the continent won't be worth living on. My 
heavens! what bankruptcy will follow death! 

Affectionately, 

W. H. P. 

To Frank C. Page* 

Sunday, December 20th, 1914. 
Dear Old Man: 

I envy both you and your mother 3 your chance to make 
plans for the farm and the house and all the rest of it and 

! On June 12, 1914. The title of the address was " Some Aspects of the American 
Democracy." 

2 The Ambassador's youngest son. 

3 Mrs. W. H. Page was at this time spending a few weeks in the United States. 



354 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to have one another to talk to. And, most of all, you are 
where you can now and then change the subject. You 
can guess somewhat at our plight when Kitty and I con- 
fessed to one another last night that we were dead tired 
and needed to go to bed early and to stay long. She's 
sleeping yet, the dear kid, and I hope she'll sleep till lunch 
time. There isn't anything the matter with us but the 
war; but that's enough, Heaven knows. It's the worst 
ailment that has ever struck me. Then, if you add to that 
this dark, wet, foggy, sooty, cold, penetrating climate — 
you ought to thank your stars that you are not in it. I'm 
glad your mother's out of it, as much as we miss her ; and 
miss her? Good gracious! there's no telling the hole her 
absence makes in all our life. But Kitty is a trump, 
true blue and dead game, and the very best company you 
can find in a day's journey. And, much as we miss your 
mother, you mustn't weep for us ; we are having some fun 
and are planning more. I could have no end of fun with 
her if I had any time. But to work all day and till bed- 
time doesn't leave much time for sport. 

The farm — the farm — the farm — it's yours and Moth- 
er's to plan and make and do with as you wish. I shall 
be happy whatever you do, even if you put the roof in the 
cellar and the cellar on top of the house. 

If you have room enough (16X10 plus a fire and a bath 
are enough for me), I'll go down there and write a book. 
If you haven't it, I'll go somewhere else and write a book. 
I don't propose to be made unhappy by any house or by 
the lack of any house nor by anything whatsoever. 

All the details of life go on here just the same. The war 
goes as slowly as death because it is death, death to 
millions of men. We've all said all we know about it to one 
another a thousand times; nobody knows anything else; 
nobody can guess when it will end ; nobody has any doubt 



ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR 355 

about how it will end, unless some totally improbable and 
unexpected thing happens, such as the falling out of the 
Allies, which can't happen for none of them can afford it ; 
and we go around the same bloody circle all the time. 
The papers never have any news ; nobody ever talks about 
anything else; everybody is tired to death; nobody is 
cheerful; when it isn't sick Belgians, it's aeroplanes; and 
when it isn't aeroplanes, it's bombarding the coast of Eng- 
land. When it isn't an American ship held up, it's a fool 
American-German arrested as a spy; and when it isn't a 
spy it's a liar who knows the Zeppelins are coming to- 
night. We don't know anything; we don't believe any- 
body ; we should be surprised at nothing ; and at 3 o'clock 
I'm going to the Abbey to a service in honour of the 100 
years of peace ! The world has all got itself so jumbled up 
that the bays are all promontories, the mountains are all 
valleys, and earthquakes are necessary for our happiness. 
We have disasters for breakfast ; mined ships for luncheon ; 
burned cities for dinner ; trenches in our dreams, and bom- 
barded towns for small talk. 

Peaceful seems the sandy landscape where you are, glad 
the very blackjacks, happy the curs, blessed the sheep, in- 
teresting the chin-whiskered clodhopper, innocent the fool 
darkey, blessed the mule, for it knows no war. And you 
have your mother — be happy, boy ; you don't know how 
much you have to be thankful for. 

Europe is ceasing to be interesting except as an example 
of how-not-to-do-it. It has no lessons for us except as a 
warning. When the whole continent has to go fighting — 
every blessed one of them — once a century, and half of 
them half the time between and all prepared even when 
they are not fighting, and when they shoot away all their 
money as soon as they begin to get rich a little and every- 
body else's money, too, and make the whole world poor, 



356 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

and when they kill every third or fourth generation of the 
best men and leave the worst to rear families, and have to 
start over afresh every time with a worse stock — give me 
Uncle Sam and his big farm. We don't need to catch 
any of this European life. We can do without it all as well 
as we can do without the judges' wigs and the court cos- 
tumes. Besides, I like a land where the potatoes have 
some flavour, where you can buy a cigar, and get your hair 
cut and have warm bathrooms. 

Build the farm, therefore; and let me hear at every 
stage of that happy game. May the New Year be the 
best that has ever come for you ! 

Affectionately, 

W. H. P. 



CHAPTER XII 

WAGING NEUTRALITY 



THE foregoing letters sufficiently portray Page's 
attitude toward the war; they also show the extent 
to which he suffered from the daily tragedy. The great 
burdens placed upon the Embassy in themselves would 
have exhausted a physical frame that had never been 
particularly robust; but more disintegrating than these 
was the mental distress — the constant spectacle of a 
civilization apparently bent upon its own destruction. 
Indeed there were probably few men in Europe upon whom 
the war had a more depressing effect. In the first few 
weeks the Ambassador perceptibly grew older; his face 
became more deeply fined, his hair became grayer, his 
body thinner, his step lost something of its quickness, 
his shoulders began to stoop, and his manner became more 
and more abstracted. Page's kindness, geniality, and 
consideration had long since endeared him to all the em- 
bassy staff, from his chief secretaries to clerks and door- 
men ; and all his associates now watched with affectionate 
solicitude the extent to which the war was wearing upon 
him. "In those first weeks," says Mr. Irwin Laughfin, 
Page's most important assistant and the man upon whom 
the routine work of the Embassy largely fell, "he acted 
like a man who was carrying on his shoulders all the sins 
and burdens of the world. I know no man who seemed to 
realize so poignantly the misery and sorrow of it all. The 
sight of an England which he loved bleeding to death in 

357 



358 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

defence of the things in which he most believed was a grief 
that seemed to be sapping his very life." 

Page's associates, however, noted a change for the better 
after the Battle of the Marne. Except to his most inti- 
mate companions he said little, for he represented a nation 
that was "neutral " ; but the defeat of the Germans added 
liveliness to his step, gave a keener sparkle to his eye, and 
even brought back some of his old familiar gaiety of spirit. 
One day the Ambassador was lunching with Mr. Laughlin 
and one or two other friends. 

"We did pretty well in that Battle of the Marne, didn't 
we?" he said. 

"Isn't that remark slightly unneutral, Mr. Ambassa- 
dor?" asked Mr. Laughlin. 

At this a roar of laughter went up from the table that 
could be heard for a considerable distance. 

About this same time Page's personal secretary, Mr. 
Harold Fowler, came to ask the Ambassador's advice 
about enlisting in the British Army. To advise a young 
man to take a step that might very likely result in his 
death was a heavy responsibility, and the Ambassador re- 
fused to accept it. It was a matter that the Secretary 
could settle only with his own conscience. Mr. Fowler 
decided his problem by joining the British Army; he had a 
distinguished career in its artillery and aviation service 
as he had subsequently in the American Army. Mr. 
Fowler at once discovered that his decision had been 
highly pleasing to his superior. 

"I couldn't advise you to do this, Harold," Page said, 
placing his hand on the young man's shoulder, "but now 
that you've settled it yourself I'll say this — if I were a 
young man like you and in your circumstances, I should 
enlist myself." 

Yet greatly as Page abhorred the Prussians and greatly 



"waging neutrality" 359 

as his sympathies from the first day of the war were en- 
listed on the side of the Allies, there was no diplomat in 
the American service who was more "neutral" in the 
technical sense. "Neutral!" Page once exclaimed. 
"There's nothing in the world so neutral as this embassy. 
Neutrality takes up all our time." When he made this 
remark he was, as he himself used to say, "the German 
Ambassador to Great Britain." And he was performing 
the duties of this post with the most conscientious fidelity. 
These duties were onerous and disagreeable ones and were 
made still more so by the unreasonableness of the German 
Government. Though the American Embassy was car- 
ing for the more than 70,000 Germans who Avere then 
living in England and was performing numerous other 
duties, the Imperial Government never realized that Page 
and the Embassy staff were doing it a service. With 
characteristic German tactlessness the German Foreign 
Office attempted to be as dictatorial to Page as though he 
had been one of its own junior secretaries. The business 
of the German Embassy in London was conducted with 
great ability; the office work was kept in the most ship- 
shape condition; yet the methods were American methods 
and the Germans seemed aggrieved because the routine 
of the Imperial bureaucracy was not observed. With 
unparallelled insolence they objected to the American 
system of accounting — not that it was unsound or did 
not give an accurate picture of affairs — but simply that 
it was not German. Page quietly but energetically 
informed the German Government that the American dip- 
lomatic service was not a part of the German organiza- 
tion, that its bookkeeping system was American, not 
German, that he was doing this work not as an obligation 
but as a favour, and that, so long as he continued to do it, 
he would perform the duty in his own way. At this the 



360 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Imperial Government subsided. Despite such annoy- 
ances Page refused to let his own feelings interfere with 
the work. The mere fact that he despised the Germans 
made him over-scrupulous in taking all precautions that 
they obtained exact justice. But this was all that the 
German cause in Great Britain did receive. His admin- 
istration of the German Embassy was faultless in its 
technique, but it did not err on the side of over-enthu- 
siasm. 

His behaviour throughout the three succeeding years 
was entirely consistent with his conception of "neutral- 
ity." That conception, as is apparent from the letters 
already printed, was not the Wilsonian conception. 
Probably no American diplomat was more aggrieved at 
the President's definition of neutrality than his Am- 
bassador to Great Britain. Page had no quarrel with 
the original neutrality proclamation; that was purely a 
routine governmental affair, and at the time it was issued 
it represented the proper American attitude. But the 
President's famous emendations filled him with aston- 
ishment and dismay. "We must be impartial in thought 
as well as in action," said the President on August 19th, 1 
"we must put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon 
every transaction that might be construed as a prejudice 
of one party to the prejudice of another." Page was 
prepared to observe all the traditional rules of neutrality, 
to insist on American rights with the British Government, 
and to do full legal justice to the Germans, but he de- 
clined to abrogate his conscience where his personal 
judgment of the rights and wrongs of the conflict were 
concerned. "Neutrality," he said in a letter to his 
brother, Mr. Henry A. Page, of Aberdeen, N. C., "is a 

!In a letter addressed to "My fellow Countrymen" and presented to the Senate 
by Mr. Chilton. 



it 



WAGING NEUTRALITY" 361 



quab'ty of government — an artificial unit. When a war 
comes a government must go in it or stay out of it. It 
must make a declaration to the world of its attitude. 
That's all that neutrality is. A government can be 
neutral, but no man can be." 

"The President and the Government," Page after- 
ward wrote, "in their insistence upon the moral quality 
of neutrality, missed the larger meaning of the war. It 
is at bottom nothing but the effort of the Berlin absolute 
monarch and his group to impose their will on as large a 
part of the world as they can overrun. The President 
started out with the idea that it was a war brought on by 
many obscure causes — economic and the like; and he 
thus missed its whole meaning. We have ever since 
been dealing with the chips which fly from the war ma- 
chine and have missed the larger meaning of the conflict. 
Thus we have failed to render help to the side of Liberal- 
ism and Democracy, which are at stake in the world." 

Nor did Page think it lus duty, in his private communi- 
cations to his Government and his friends, to maintain 
that attitude of moral detachment which Mr. Wilson's 
pronouncement had evidently enjoined upon him. It 
was not his business to announce his opinions to the world, 
for he was not the man who determined the policy of the 
United States ; that was the responsibility of the President 
and his advisers. But an ambassador did have a certain 
role to perform. It was Ins duty to collect information 
and impressions, to discover what important people 
thought of the United States and of its policies, and to 
send forward all such data to Washington. According 
to Page's theory of the Ambassadorial office, he was a 
kind of listening post on the front of diplomacy, and he 
would have grievously failed had he not done his best to 
keep headquarters informed. He did not regard it as 



362 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

"loyalty" merely to forward only that kind of material 
which Washington apparently preferred to obtain; with 
a frankness which Mr. Wilson's friends regarded as al- 
most ruthless, Page reported what he believed to be the 
truth. That this practice was displeasing to the powers 
of Washington there is abundant evidence. In early 
December, 1914, Colonel House was compelled to trans- 
mit a warning to the American Ambassador at London. 
"The President wished me to ask you to please be more 
careful not to express any unneutral feeling, either by 
word of mouth, or by letter and not even to the State 
Department. He said that both Mr. Bryan and Mr. 
Lansing had remarked upon your leaning in that di- 
rection and he thought that it would materially lessen 
your influence. He feels very strongly about this." 

Evidently Page did not regard his frank descriptions of 
England under war as expressing unneutral feeling; at any 
rate, as the war went on, his letters, even those which he 
wrote to President Wilson, became more and more out- 
spoken. Page's resignation was always at the Presi- 
dent's disposal; the time came, as will appear, when it 
was offered; so long as he occupied his post, however, 
nothing could turn him from his determination to make 
what he regarded as an accurate record of events. This 
policy of maintaining an outward impartiality, and, at 
the same time, of bringing pressure to bear on Washington 
in behalf of the Allies, he called "waging neutrality." 

Such was the mood in which Page now prepared to 
play his part in what was probably the greatest diplo- 
matic drama in history. The materials with which this 
drama concerned itself were such apparently lifeless sub- 
jects as ships and cargoes, learned discourses on such 
abstract matters as the doctrine of continuous voyage, 
effective blockade, and conditional contraband; vet the 



"waging neutrality" 363 

struggle, which lasted for three years, involved the 
greatest issue of modern times — nothing less than the sur- 
vival of those conceptions of liberty, government, and 
society which make the basis of English-speaking civili- 
zation. To the newspaper reader of war days, shipping 
difficulties signified little more than a newspaper head- 
line which he hastily read, or a long and involved lawyer's 
note which he seldom read at all — or, if he did, practically 
never understood. Yet these minute and neglected con- 
troversies presented to the American Nation the greatest 
decision in its history. Once before, a century ago, a 
European struggle had laid before the United States 
practically the same problem. Great Britain fought 
Napoleon, just as it had now been compelled to fight the 
Hohenzollern, by blockade; such warfare, in the early 
nineteenth century, led to retaliations, just as did the 
maritime warfare in the recent conflict, and the United 
States suffered, in 1812, as in 1914, from what were re- 
garded as the depredations of both sides. In Napo- 
leon's days France and Great Britain, according to the 
international lawyers, attacked American commerce in 
illegal ways; on strictly technical grounds this infant 
nation had an adequate cause of war against both bel- 
ligerents; but the ultimate consequence of a very con- 
fused situation was a declaration of war against Great 
Britain. Though an England which was ruled by a 
George III or a Prince Regent — an England of rotten 
boroughs, of an ignorant and oppressed peasantry, and of 
a social organization in which caste was almost as def- 
initely drawn as in an Oriental despotism — could hardly 
appeal to the enthusiastic democrat as embodying all the 
ideals of his system, yet the England of 1800 did repre- 
sent modern progress when compared with the mediaeval 
autocracy of Napoleon. If we take tins broad view, 



364 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

therefore, we must admit that, in 1812, we fought on the 
side of darkness and injustice against the forces that were 
making for enlightenment. The war of 1914 had not 
gone far when the thinking American foresaw that it 
would present to the American people precisely this same 
problem. What would the decision be? Would Amer- 
ica repeat the experience of 1812, or had the teachings of a 
century so dissipated hatreds that it would be able to 
exert its influence in a way more worthy of itself and more 
helpful to the progress of mankind? 

There was one great difference, however, between the 
position of the United States in 1812 and its position in 
1914. A century ago we were a small and feeble nation, 
of undeveloped industries and resources and of immature 
character; our entrance into the European conflict, on 
one side or the other, could have little influence upon its 
results, and, in fact, it influenced it scarcely at all; the 
side we fought against emerged triumphant. In 1914, 
we had the greatest industrial organization and the 
greatest wealth of any nation and the largest white 
population of any country except Russia; the energy of 
our people and our national talent for success had long 
been the marvel of foreign observers. It mattered little 
in 1812 on which side the United States took its stand; 
in 1914 such a decision would inevitably determine the 
issue. Of all European statesmen there was one man 
who saw this point with a definiteness which, in itself, 
gives him a clear title to fame. That was Sir Edward 
Grey. The time came when a section of the British 
public was prepared almost to stone the Foreign Secretary 
in the streets of London, because they believed that his 
"subservience" to American trade interests was losing 
the war for Great Britain; his tenure of office was a 
constant struggle with British naval and military chiefs 



it 



WAGING neutrality" 365 



who asserted that the Foreign Office, in its efforts to 
maintain harmonious relations with America, was ham- 
stringing the British fleet, was rendering almost impo- 
tent its control of the sea, and was thus throwing away 
the greatest advantage which Great Britain possessed 
in its life and death struggle. "Some blight has been 
at work in our Foreign Office for years," said the Quar- 
terly Review , "steadily undermining our mastery of the 
sea." 

"The fleet is not allowed to act," cried Lord Charles 
Beresford in Parliament; the Foreign Office was con- 
stantly interfering with its operations. The word "trai- 
tor" was not infrequently heard; there were hints that 
pro-Germanism was rampant and that officials in the 
Foreign Office were drawing their pay from the Kaiser. 
It was constantly charged that the navy was bringing in 
suspicious cargoes only to have the Foreign Office order 
their release. "I fight Sir Edward about stopping car- 
goes," Page wrote to Colonel House in December, 1914; 
"literally fight. He yields and promises this or that. 
This or that doesn't happen or only half happens. I 
know why. The military ministers balk him. I in- 
quire through the back door and hear that the Admiralty 
and the War Office of course value American good-will, 
but they'll take their chances of a quarrel with the United 
States rather than let copper get to Germany. The 
cabinet has violent disagreements. But the military 
men yield as little as possible. It was rumoured the 
other day that the Prime Minister threatened to resign; 
and I know that Kitchener's sister told her friends, with 
tears in her eyes, that the cabinet shamefully hindered 
her brother." 

These criticisms unquestionably caused Sir Edward 
great unhappiness, but this did not for a moment move 



366 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

him from his course. His vision was fixed upon a much 
greater purpose. Parliamentary orators might rage be- 
cause the British fleet was not permitted to make indis- 
criminate warfare on commerce, but the patient and far- 
seeing British Foreign Secretary was the man who was 
really trying to win the war. He was one of the few 
Englishmen who, in August, 1914, perceived the tre- 
mendous extent of the struggle in which Great Britain 
had engaged. He saw that the English people were 
facing the greatest crisis since William of Normandy, in 
1066, subjected their island to foreign rule. Was England 
to become the "Reichsland" of a European monarch, and 
was the British Empire to pass under the sway of Ger- 
many? Proud as Sir Edward Grey was of his country, he 
was modest in the presence of facts ; and one fact of which 
he early became convinced was that Great Britain could 
not win unless the United States was ranged upon its 
side. Here was the country — so Sir Edward reasoned — 
that contained the largest effective white population 
in the world; that could train armies larger than those 
of any other nation; that could make the most muni- 
tions, build the largest number of battleships and mer- 
chant vessels, and raise food in quantities great enough to 
feed itself and Europe besides. This power, the Foreign 
Secretary believed, could determine the issue of the war. 
If Great Britain secured American sympathy and sup- 
port, she would win; if Great Britain lost this sympa- 
thy and support, she would lose. A foreign policy that 
would estrange the United States and perhaps even throw 
its support to Germany would not only lose the war to 
Great Britain, but it would be perhaps the blackest crime 
in history, for it would mean the collapse of that British- 
American cooperation, and the destruction of those 
British-American ideals and institutions which are the 



"waging neutrality" 367 

greatest facts in the modern world. This conviction 
was the basis of Sir Edward's policy from the day that 
Great Britain declared war. Whatever enemies he might 
make in England, the Foreign Secretary was determined 
to shape his course so that the support of the United 
States would be assured to his country. A single illus- 
tration shows the skill and wisdom with which he pursued 
this great purpose. 

Perhaps nothing in the early days of the war enraged 
the British military chiefs more than the fact that cotton 
was permitted to go from the United States to Germany. 
That Germany was using this cotton in the manufacture 
of torpedoes to sink British ships and of projectiles to kill 
British soldiers in trenches was well known ; nor did many 
people deny that Great Britain had the right to put 
cotton on the contraband list. Yet Grey, in the pursuit 
of his larger end, refused to take this step. He knew 
that the prosperity of the Southern States depended 
exclusively upon the cotton crop. He also knew that the 
South had raised the 1914 crop with no knowledge that a 
war was impending and that to deny the Southern plant- 
ers their usual access to the German markets would all 
but ruin them. He believed that such a ruling would im- 
mediately alienate the sympathy of a large section of the 
United States and make our Southern Senators and Con- 
gressmen enemies of Great Britain. Sir Edward was also 
completely informed of the extent to which the German- 
Americans and the Irish-Americans were active and he 
was familiar with the aims of American pacifists. He be- 
lieved that declaring cotton contraband at this time would 
bring together in Congress the Southern Senators and 
Congressmen, the representatives of the Irish and the 
German causes and the pacifists, and that this combina- 
tion would exercise an influence that would be disastrous 






368 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to Great Britain. Two dangers constantly haunted Sir 
Edward's mind at this time. One was that the enemies of 
Great Britain would assemble enough votes in Congress 
to place an embargo upon the shipment of munitions from 
this country. Such an embargo might well be fatal to 
Great Britain, for at this time she was importing muni- 
tions, especially shells, in enormous quantities from the 
United States. The other was that such pressure might 
force the Government to convoy American cargoes with 
American warships. Great Britain then could stop the 
cargoes only by attacking our cruisers, and to attack a 
cruiser is an act of war. Had Congress taken either 
one of these steps the Allies would have lost the war 
in the spring of 1915. At a cabinet meeting held to 
consider this question, Sir Edward Grey set forth this 
view and strongly advised that cotton should not be 
made contraband at that time. 1 The Cabinet supported 
him and events justified the decision. Afterward, in 
Washington, several of the most influential Senators in- 
formed Sir Edward that this action had averted a great 
crisis. 

This was the motive, which, as will appear as the story 
of our relations with Great Britain progresses, inspired 
the Foreign Secretary in all his dealings with the United 
States. His purpose was to use the sea power of Great 
Britain to keep war materials and foodstuffs out of Ger- 
many, but never to go to the length of making an un- 
bridgeable gulf between the United States and Great 
Britain. The American Ambassador to Great Britain 
completely sympathized with this programme. It was 
Page's business to protect the rights of the United States, 
just as it was Grey's to protect the rights of Great Britain. 

J This was in October, 1914. In August, 1915, when conditions had changed, 
cotton was declared contraband. 



"waging neutrality" 369 

Both were vigilant in protecting such rights, and animated 
differences between the two men on this point were not 
infrequent. Great Britain did many absurd and high- 
handed things in intercepting American cargoes, and Page 
was always active in "protesting" when the basis for the 
protest actually existed. But on the great overhanging 
issue the two men were at one. Like Grey, Page be- 
lieved that there were more important things involved than 
an occasional cargo of copper or of oil cake. The Amer- 
ican Ambassador thought that the United States should 
protect its shipping interests, but that it should realize 
that maritime law was not an exact science, that its 
principles had been modified by every great conflict in 
which the blockade had been an effective agency, and 
that the United States itself, in the Civil War, had not 
hesitated to make such changes as the changed methods 
of modern transportation had required. In other words 
he believed that we could safeguard our rights in a way 
that would not prevent Great Britain from keeping war 
materials and foodstuffs out of Germany. And like Sir 
Edward Grey, Page was obliged to contend with forces at 
home which maintained a contrary view. In this early 
period Mr. Bryan was nominally Secretary of State, but 
the man who directed the national policy in shipping 
matters was Robert Lansing, then counsellor of the De- 
partment. It is somewhat difficult to appraise Mr. Lansing 
justly, for in his conduct of his office there was not the 
slightest taint of malice. His methods were tactless, the 
phrasing of his notes lacked deftness and courtesy, his 
literary style was crude and irritating; but Mr. Lansing 
was not anti-British, he was not pro-German ; he was noth- 
ing more nor less than a lawyer. The protection of Ameri- 
can rights at sea was to him simply a "case" in which he 
had been retained as counsel for the plaintiff. As a 



370 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

good lawyer it was his business to score as many points as 
possible for his client and the more weak joints he found 
in the enemy's armour the better did he do his job. It was 
his duty to scan the law books, to look up the precedents, 
to examine facts, and to prepare briefs that would be 
unassailable from a technical standpoint. To Mr. Lan- 
sing this European conflict was the opportunity of a life- 
time. He had spent thirty years studying the intricate 
problems that now became his daily companions. His 
mind revelled in such minute details as ultimate destin- 
ation, the continuous voyage as applied to conditional 
contraband, the searching of cargoes upon the high seas, 
belligerent trading through neutral ports, war zones, 
orders in council, and all the other jargon of maritime 
rights in time of war. These topics engrossed him as 
completely as the extension of democracy and the signifi- 
cance of British-American cooperation engrossed all the 
thoughts of Page and Grey. 

That Page took this larger view is evident from the 
communications which he now began sending to the 
President. One that he wrote on October 15, 1914, is 
especially to the point. The date is extremely important ; 
so early had Page formulated the standards that should 
guide the United States and so early had he begun his 
work of attempting to make President Wilson understand 
the real nature of the conflict. The position which Page 
now assumed was one from which he never departed. 



To the President 

In this great argument about shipping I cannot help 
being alarmed because we are getting into deep water 
uselessly. The Foreign Office has yielded unquestion- 
ingly to all our requests and has shown the sincerest wish 



"waging neutrality" 371 

to meet all our suggestions, so long as it is not called 
upon to admit war materials into Germany. It will 
not give way to us in that. We would not yield it if we 
were in their place. Neither would the Germans. Eng- 
land will risk a serious quarrel or even hostilities with 
us rather than yield. You may look upon this as the final 
word. 

Since the last lists of contraband and conditional contra- 
band were published, such materials as rubber and copper 
and petroleum have developed entirely new uses in war. 
The British simply will not let Germany import them. 
Nothing that can be used for war purposes in Germany 
now will be used for anything else. Representatives of 
Spain, Holland, and all the Scandinavian states agree that 
they can do nothing but acquiesce and file protests and 
claims, and they admit that Great Britain has the right to 
revise the fist of contraband. This is not a war in the 
sense in which we have hitherto used that word. It is a 
world-clash of systems of government, a struggle to the 
extermination of English civilization or of Prussian mili- 
tary autocracy. Precedents have gone to the scrap heap. 
We have a new measure for military and diplomatic action. 
Let us suppose that we press for a few rights to which the 
shippers have a theoretical claim. The American people 
gain nothing and the result is friction with this country ; 
and that is ^Yhat a very small minority of the agitators in 
the United States would like. Great Britain can any day 
close the Channel to all shipping or can drive Holland to 
the enemy and blockade her ports. 

Let us take a little farther view into the future. If 
Germany win, will it make any difference what position 
Great Britain took on the Declaration of London? The 
Monroe Doctrine will be shot through. We shall have 
to have a great army and a great navy. But suppose that 



372 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

England win. We shall then have an ugly academic dis- 
pute with her because of this controversy. Moreover, 
we shall not hold a good position for helping to compose 
the quarrel or for any other service. 

The present controversy seems here, where we are close 
to the struggle, academic. It seems to us a petty matter 
when it is compared with the grave danger we incur of 
shutting ourselves off from a position to be of some service 
to civilization and to the peace of mankind. 

In Washington you seem to be indulging in a more or 
less theoretical discussion. As we see the issue here, it is 
a matter of life and death for English-speaking civilization. 
It is not a happy time to raise controversies that can be 
avoided or postponed. We gain nothing, we lose every 
chance for useful cooperation for peace. In jeopardy also 
are our friendly relations with Great Britain in the sorest 
need and the greatest crisis in her history. I know that 
this is the correct view. I recommend most earnestly 
that we shall substantially accept the new Order in Coun- 
cil or acquiesce in it and reserve whatever rights we may 
have. I recommend prompt information be sent to the 
British Government of such action. I should like to in- 
form Grey that this is our decision. 

So far as our neutrality obligations are concerned, I do 
not believe that they require us to demand that Great 
Britain should adopt for our benefit the Declaration of 
London. Great Britain has never ratified it, nor have 
any other nations except the United States. In its 
application to the situation presented by this war it is 
altogether to the advantage of Germany. 

I have delayed to write you this way too long. I have 
feared that I might possibly seem to be influenced by 
sympathy with England and by the atmosphere here. 
But I write of course solely with reference to our own 



"waging neutrality" 373 

country's interest and its position after the reorganization 
of Europe. 

Anderson 1 and Laughlin 2 agree with me emphatically. 

Walter H. Page. 

ii 

The immediate cause of this protest was, as its con- 
text shows, the fact that the State Department was 
insisting that Great Britain should adopt the Declaration 
of London as a code of law for regulating its warfare on 
German shipping. Hostilities had hardly started when 
Mr. Bryan made this proposal; his telegram on this sub- 
ject is dated August 7, 1914. "You will further state,'* 
said Mr. Bryan, "that this Government believes that the 
acceptance of these laws by the belligerents would pre- 
vent grave misunderstandings which may arise as to the 
relations between belligerents and neutrals. It therefore 
hopes that this inquiry may receive favourable consider- 
ation." At the same time Germany and the other bel- 
ligerents were asked to adopt this Declaration. 

The communication was thus more than a suggestion; 
it was a recommendation that was strongly urged. Ac- 
cording to Page this telegram was the first great mistake 
the American Government made in its relations with 
Great Britain. In September, 1916, the Ambassador 
submitted to President Wilson a memorandum which he 
called "Rough notes toward an explanation of the British 
feeling toward the United States." "Of recent years," 
he said, "and particularly during the first year of the 
present Administration, the British feeling toward the 
United States was most friendly and cordial. About 

'Mr. Chandler P. Anderson, of New York, at this time advising the Americar 
Embassy on questions of international law. 

•Mr. Irwin Laughlin, first secretary of the Embassy. 



374 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the time of the repeal of the tolls clause in the Panama Act, 
the admiration and friendliness of the whole British 
public (governmental and private) reached the highest 
point in our history. In considering the change that has 
taken place since, it is well to bear this cordiality in mind 
as a starting point. When the war came on there ^Yas at 
first nothing to change this attitude. The hysterical hope 
of many persons that our Government might protest 
against the German invasion of Belgium caused some 
feeling of disappointment, but thinking men did not share 
it; and, if this had been the sole cause of criticism of us., 
the criticism would have died out. The unusually high 
regard in which the President — and hence our Govern- 
ment — was then held was to a degree new. The British 
had for many years held the people of the United States 
in high esteem: they had not, as a rule, so favourably re- 
garded the Government at Washington, especially in its 
conduct of foreign relations. They had long regarded 
our Government as ignorant of European affairs and ama- 
teurish in its cockiness. When I first got to London I 
found evidence of this feeling, even in the most friendly 
atmosphere that surrounded us. Mr. Bryan was looked 
on as a joke. They forgot him — rather, they never took 
serious notice of him. But, when the Panama tolls inci- 
dent was closed, they regarded the President as his own 
Foreign Secretary; and thus our Government as well as 
our Nation came into this high measure of esteem. 

"The war began. We, of course, took a neutral atti- 
tude, wholly to their satisfaction. But we at once inter- 
fered — or tried to interfere — by insisting on the Declara- 
tion of London, which no Great Power but the United 
States (I think) had ratified and which the British House 
of Lords had distinctly rejected. That Declaration 
would probably have given a victory to Germany if the 



WAGING NEUTRALITY 375 

Allies had adopted it. In spite of our neutrality we in- 
sisted vigorously on its adoption and aroused a distrust in 
our judgment. Thus we started in wrong, so far as the 
British Government is concerned." 

The rules of maritime warfare which the American State 
Department so disastrously insisted upon were the direct 
outcome of the Hague Conference of 1907. That as- 
sembly of the nations recognized, what had long been a 
palpable fact, that the utmost confusion existed in the 
operations of warring powers upon the high seas. About 
the fundamental principle that a belligerent had the right, 
if it had the power, to keep certain materials of commerce 
from reaching its enemy, there was no dispute. But as to 
the particular articles which it could legally exclude there 
were as many different ideas as there were nations. 
That the blockade, a term which means the complete 
exclusion of cargoes and ships from an enemy's ports, 
was a legitimate means of warfare, was also an accepted 
fact, but as to the precise means in which the blockade 
could be enforced there was the widest difference of opin- 
ion. The Hague Conference provided that an attempt 
should be made to codify these laws into a fixed system, 
and the representatives of the nations met in London in 
1908, under the presidency of the Earl of Desart, for this 
purpose. The outcome of their two months' deliberations 
was that document of seven chapters and seventy articles 
which has ever since been known as the Declaration of 
London. Here at last was the thing for which the world 
had been waiting so long — a complete system of maritime 
law for the regulation of belligerents and the protection 
of neutrals, which would be definitely binding upon all 
nations because all nations were expected to ratify it. 

But the work of all these learned gentlemen was thrown 
away. The United States was the only party to the nego- 



376 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

tiations that put the stamp of approval upon its labours. 
All other nations declined to commit themselves. In 
Great Britain the Declaration had an especially interesting 
course. In that country it became a football of party 
politics. The Liberal Government was at first inclined to 
look upon it favourably ; the Liberal House of Commons 
actually ratified it. It soon became apparent, however, 
that this vote did not represent the opinion of the British 
public. In fact, few measures have eA r er aroused such 
hostility as this Declaration, once its details became 
known. For more than a year the hubbub against it 
filled the daily press, the magazines, the two Houses of 
Parliament and the hustings ; Rudyard Kipling even wrote 
a poem denouncing it. The adoption of the Declaration, 
these critics asserted, would destroy the usefulness of the 
British fleet. In many quarters it was described as a 
German plot — as merely a part of the preparations which 
Germany was making for world conquest. The fact is 
that the Declaration could not successfully stand the 
analysis to which it was now mercilessly submitted; the 
House of Lords rejected it, and this action met with more 
approbation than had for years been accorded the legis- 
lative pronouncements of that chamber. The Liberal 
House of Commons was not in the least dissatisfied with 
this conclusion, for it realized that it had made a mistake 
and it was only too happy to be permitted to forget it. 

When the war broke out there was therefore no single 
aspect of maritime law which was quite so odious as the 
Declaration of London. Great Britain realized that she 
could never win unless her fleet were permitted to keep 
contraband out of Germany and, if necessary, completely 
to blockade that country. The two greatest conflicts of 
the nineteenth century were the European struggle with 
Napoleon and the American Civil War. In both the 



"waging neutrality' 377 

blockade had been the decisive element, and that this great 
agency would similarly determine events in this even 
greater struggle was apparent. What enraged the British 
public against any suggestion of the Declaration was that 
it practically deprived Great Britain of this indispensable 
means of weakening the enemy. In this Declaration were 
drawn up lists of contraband, non-contraband, and con- 
ditional contraband, and all of these, in English eyes, 
worked to the advantage of Germany and against the ad- 
vantage of Great Britain. How absurd this classification 
was is evident from the fact that airplanes were not listed 
as absolute contraband of war. Germany's difficulty in 
getting copper was one of the causes of her collapse ; yet 
the Declaration put copper for ever on the non-contraband 
list ; had this new code been adopted, Germany could have 
imported enormous quantities from this country, instead 
of being compelled to reinforce her scanty supply by 
robbing housewives of their kitchen utensils, buildings of 
their hardware, and church steeples of their bells. Ger- 
many's constant scramble for rubber formed a diverting 
episode in the struggle; there are indeed few things so 
indispensable in modern warfare; yet the Declaration in- 
cluded rubber among the innocent articles and thus opened 
up to Germany the ^world's supply. But the most serious 
matter was that the Declaration would have prevented 
Great Britain from keeping foodstuffs out of the Father- 
land. 

When Mr. Bryan, therefore, blandly asked Great Britain 
to accept the Declaration as its code of maritime warfare, 
he was asking that country to accept a document which 
Great Britain, in peace time, had repudiated and which 
would, in all probability, have caused that country to 
lose the war. The substance of this request was bad 
enough, but the language in which it was phrased made 



378 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

matters much worse. It appears that only the inter- 
vention of Colonel House prevented the whole thing from 
becoming a tragedy. 

From Edward M. House 

115 East 53rd Street, 

New York City. 
October 3, 1914. 
His Excellency, 

The American Ambassador, London, England. 
Dear Page: 

. . . I have just returned from Washington where 
I was with the President for nearly four days. He is 
looking well and is well. Sometimes his spirits droop, but 
then, again, he is his normal self. 

I had the good fortune to be there at a time when the 
discussion of the Declaration of London had reached a 
critical stage. Bryan was away and Lansing, who had 
not mentioned the matter to Sir Cecil, 1 prepared a long 
communication to you which he sent to the President 
for approval. The President and I went over it and I 
strongly urged not sending it until I could have a confer- 
ence with Sir Cecil. I had this conference the next day 
without the knowledge of any one excepting the President, 
and had another the day following. Sir Cecil told me that 
if the dispatch had gone to you as written and you had 
shown it to Sir Edward Grey, it would almost have been 
a declaration of war; and that if, by any chance, the neAvs- 
papers had got hold of it as they so often get things from 
our State Department, the greatest panic would have pre- 
vailed. He said it would have been the Venezuela inci- 
dent magnified by present conditions. 

At the President's suggestion, Lansing then prepared a 

'Sir Cecil Spring Rice, British Ambassador at Washington. 



"waging neutrality" 379 

cablegram to you. This, too, was objectionable and the 
President and I together softened it down into the one you 
received. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

In justice to Mr. Lansing, a passage in a later letter of 
Colonel House must be quoted: "It seems that Lansing 
did not write the particular dispatch to you that was ob- 
jected to. Someone else prepared it and Lansing rather 
too hastily submitted it to the President, with the result 
you know." 

This suppressed communication is probably for ever 
lost, but its tenor may perhaps be gathered from instruc- 
tions which were actually sent to the Ambassador about 
this time. After eighteen typewritten pages of not too 
urbanely expressed discussion of the Declaration of Lon- 
don and the general subject of contraband, Page was in- 
structed to call the British Government's attention to the 
consequences which followed shipping troubles in previous 
times. It is hard to construe this in any other way than 
as a threat to Great Britain of a repetition of 1812: 

Confidential. You will not fail to impress upon His 
Excellency 1 the gravity of the issues which the enforce- 
ment of the Order in Council seems to presage, and say to 
him in substance as follows: 

It is a matter of grave concern to this Government that 
the particular conditions of this unfortunate war should 
be considered by His Britannic Majesty's Government to 
be such as to justify them in advancing doctrines and ad- 
vocating practices which in the past aroused strong op- 
position on the part of the Government of the United 

'Sir Edward Grey- 



380 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

States, and bitter feeling among the American people. 
This Government feels bound to express the fear, though 
it does so reluctantly, that the publicity, which must be 
given to the rules which His Majesty's Government an- 
nounce that they intend to enforce, will awaken memories 
of controversies, which it is the earnest desire of the United 
States to forget or to pass over in silence. . . . 

Germany, of course, promptly accepted the Decla- 
ration, for the suggestion fitted in perfectly with her pro- 
gramme; but Great Britain was not so acquiescent. 
Four times was Page instructed to ask the British Govern- 
ment to accede unconditionally, and four times did the 
Foreign Office refuse. Page was in despair. In the fol- 
lowing letter he notified Colonel House that if he were in- 
structed again to move in this matter he would resign his 
ambassadorship. 

To Edward M. House 

American Embassy, London, 
October 22, 1914. 
Dear House : 

This is about the United States and England. Let's 
get that settled before we try our hands at making peace 
in Europe. 

One of our greatest assets is the friendship of Great 
Britain, and our friendship is a still bigger asset for her, 
and she knows it and values it. Now, if either country 
should be damfool enough to throw this away because old 
Stone 1 roars in the Senate about something that hasn't 
happened, then this crazy world would be completely mad 

1 Senator William J. Stone, perhaps the leading spokesman of the pro-German 
cause in the United States Senate. Senator Stone represented Missouri, a state 
with a large German-American element. 



"waging neutrality" 381 

all round, and there would be no good-will left on earth at 
all. 

The case is plain enough to me. England is going to 
keep war-materials out of Germany as far as she can. 
We'd do it in her place. Germany would do it. Any 
nation would do it. That's all she has declared her in- 
tention of doing. And, if she be let alone, she'll do it in a 
way to give us the very least annoyance possible; for she'll 
go any length to keep our friendship and good will. And 
she has not confiscated a single one of our cargoes even of 
unconditional contraband. She has stopped some of them 
and bought them herself, but confiscated not one. All 
right; what do we do? We set out on a comprehensive 
plan to regulate the naval warfare of the world and we up 
and ask 'em all, "Now, boys, all be good, damn you, and 
agree to the Declaration of London." 

"Yah," says Germany, "if England will." 
Now Germany isn't engaged in naval warfare to count, 
and she never even paid the slightest attention to the 
Declaration all these years. But she saw that it would 
hinder England and help her now, by forbidding England 
to stop certain very important war materials from reaching 
Germany. "Yah," said Germany. But England said 
that her Parliament had rejected the Declaration in times 
of peace and that she could now hardly be expected to 
adopt it in the face of this Parliamentary rejection. But, 
to please us, she agreed to adopt it with only two 
changes. 

Then Lansing to the bat: 

"No, no," says Lansing, "you've got to adopt it all." 
Four times he's made me ask for its adoption, the last 
time coupled with a proposition that if England would 
adopt it, she might issue a subsequent proclamation say- 
ing that, since the Declaration is contradictory, she will 



382 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

construe it her own way, and the United States ayIII raise 
no objection! 

Then he sends eighteen pages of fine-spun legal argu- 
ments (not all sound by any means) against the sections 
of the English proclamations that have been put forth, 
giving them a strained and unfriendly interpretation. 

In a word, England has acted in a friendly way to us 
and will so act, if we allow her. But Lansing, instead of 
trusting to her good faith and reserving all our rights 
under international law and usage, imagines that he can 
force her to agree to a code that the Germans now agree 
to because, in Germany's present predicament, it will be 
especially advantageous to Germany. Instead of trust- 
ing her, he assumes that she means to do wrong and pro- 
ceeds to try to bind her in advance. He hauls her up and 
tries her in court — that's his tone. 

Now the relations that I have established with Sir 
Edward Grey have been built up on frankness, fairness 
and friendship. I can't have relations of any other sort 
nor can England and the United States have relations of 
any other sort. This is the place we've got to now. Lan- 
sing seems to assume that the way to an amicable agree- 
ment is through an angry controversy. 

Lansing's method is the trouble. He treats Great 
Britain, to start with, as if she were a criminal and an op- 
ponent. That's the best way I know to cause trouble to 
American shipping and to bring back the good old days of 
mutual hatred and distrust for a generation or two. If 
that isn't playing into the hands of the Germans, what 
would be? And where's the "neutrality" of this kind of 
action? 

See here: If we let England go on, we can throw the 
whole responsibility on her and reserve all our rights under 
international law and usage and claim damages (and get 



"waging neutrality" 383 

'em) for every act of injury, if acts of injury occur; and 
we can keep her friendship and good-will. Every other 
neutral nation is doing that. Or we can insist on regulat- 
ing all naval warfare and have a quarrel and refer it to a 
Bryan-Peace-Treaty Commission and claim at most the 
jelfsame damages with a less chance to get 'em. We can 
get damages without a quarrel; or we can have a quarrel 
and probably get damages. Now, why, in God's name, 
should we provoke a quarrel? 

The curse of the world is little men who for an imagined 
small temporary advantage throw awa\ the long growth 
of good-will nurtured by wise and patient men and who 
cannot see the lasting and far greater future evil they do. 
Of all the years since 1776 this great war-year is the worst 
to break the 100 years of our peace, or even to ruffle it. 
I pray you, good friend, get us out of these incompetent 
lawyer-hands. 

Now about the peace of Europe. Nothing can yet be 
done, perhaps nothing now can ever be done by us. The 
Foreign Office doubts our wisdom and prudence since 
Lansing came into action. The whole atmosphere is 
changing. One more such move and they will conclude 
that Dernburg and Bernstorff have seduced us — without 
our knowing it, to be sure; but their confidence in our 
judgment will be gone. God knows I have tried to keep 
this confidence intact and our good friendship secure. 
But I have begun to get despondent over the outlook since 
the President telegraphed me that Lansing's proposal 
would settle the matter. I still believe he did not under- 
stand it — he couldn't have done so. Else he could not 
have approved it. But that tied my hands. If Lansing 
again brings up the Declaration of London — after four 
flat and reasonable rejections — I shall resign. I will not 
be the instrument of a perfectly gratuitous and ineffective 



384 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

insult to this patient and fair and friendly government and 
people who in my time have done us many kindnesses and 
never an injury but Carden, 1 and who sincerely try now 
to meet our wishes. It would be too asinine an act ever 
to merit forgiveness or ever to be forgotten. I should 
blame myself the rest of my life. It would grieve Sir 
Edward more than anything except this war. It would 
knock the management of foreign affairs by this Adminis- 
tration into the region of sheer idiocy. I'm afraid any 
peace talk from us, as it is, would merely be whistling down 
the wind. If we break with England — not on any case or 
act of violence to our shipping — but on a useless discussion, 
in advance, of general principles of conduct during the 
war — just for a discussion — we've needlessly thrown away 
our great chance to be of some service to this world gone 
mad. If Lansing isn't stopped, that's what he will do. 
Why doesn't the President see Spring Rice? Why don't 
you take him to see him? 

Good night, my good friend. I still have hope that the 
President himself will take this in hand. 

Yours always, 

W. H. P. 

The letters and the cablegrams which Page was sending 
to Colonel House and the State Department at this time 
evidently ended the matter. By the middle of October 
the two nations were fairly deadlocked. Sir Edward 
Grey's reply to the American proposal had been an ac- 
ceptance of the Declaration of London with certain 
modifications. For the list of contraband in the Declar- 
ation he had submitted the list already adopted by Great 
Britain in its Order in Council, and he had also rejected 
that article which made it impossible for Great Britain 

•See Chapter VII. 



"waging neutrality" 385 

to apply the doctrine of "continuous voyage" to condi- 
tional contraband. The modified acceptance, declared 
Mr. Lansing, was a practical rejection— as of course it 
was, and as it was intended to be. So the situation re- 
mained for several exciting weeks, the State Department 
insisting on the Declaration in full, precisely as the legal 
luminaries had published it five years before, the For- 
eign Office courteously but inflexibly refusing to accede. 
Only the cordial personal relations which prevailed be- 
tween Grey and Page prevented the crisis from producing 
the most disastrous results. Finally, on October 17th, 
Page proposed by cable an arrangement which he hoped 
would settle the matter. This was that the King should 
issue a proclamation accepting the Declaration with prac- 
tically the modifications suggested above, and that a new 
Order in Council should be issued containing a new list of 
contraband. Sir Edward Grey was not to ask the Amer- 
ican Government to accept this proclamation; all that he 
asked was that Washington should offer no objections to 
it. It was proposed that the United States at the same 
time should publish a note withdrawing its suggestion 
for the adoption of the Declaration, and explaining that 
it proposed to rest the rights of its citizens upon the exist- 
ing rules of international law and the treaties of the United 
States. This solution was accepted. It was a defeat 
for Mr. Lansing, of course, but he had no alternative. 
The relief that Page felt is shown in the following memo- 
randum, written soon after the tension had ceased: 

"That insistence on the Declaration entire came near 
to upsetting the whole kettle of fish. It put on me the 
task of insisting on a general code — at a time when the 
fiercest war in history was every day becoming fiercer and 
more desperate — which would have prevented the British 



386 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

from putting on their contraband list several of the most 
important war materials — accompanied by a proposal 
that would have angered every neutral nation through 
which supplies can possibly reach Germany and prevented 
this Government from making friendly working arrange- 
ments with them; and, after Sir Edward Grey had flatly 
declined for these reasons, I had to continue to insist. I 
confess it did look as if we were determined to dictate to 
him how he should conduct the war — and in a way that 
distinctly favoured the Germans. 

"I presented every insistence; for I should, of course, 
not have been excusable if I had failed in any case vigor- 
' usly to carry out my instructions. But every time I 
plainly saw matters getting worse and worse; and I should 
have failed of my duty also if I had not so informed the 
President and the Department. I can conceive of no 
more awkward situation for an Ambassador or for any 
other man under Heaven. I turned the whole thing over 
in my mind backward and forward a hundred times every 
day. For the first time in this stress and strain, I lost 
my appetite and digestion and did not know the day of 
the week nor what month it was — seeing the two govern- 
ments rushing toward a very serious clash, which would 
have made my mission a failure and done the Adminis- 
tration much hurt, and have sowed the seeds of bitterness 
for generations to come. 

"One day I said to Anderson (whose assistance is in 
many ways invaluable) : ' Of course nobody is infallible — 
least of all we. Is it possible that we are mistaken? You 
and Laughlin and I, who are close to it all, are absolutely 
agreed. But may there not be some important element in 
the problem that we do not see? Summon and muse 
every doubt that you can possibly muster up of the cor- 
rectness of our view, put yourself on the defensive, recall 



"waging neutrality" 387 

every mood you may have had of the slightest hesitation, 
and tell me to-morrow of every possible weak place there 
may be in our judgment and conclusions.' The next day 
Anderson handed me seventeen reasons why it was unwise 
to persist in this demand for the adoption of the Declara- 
tion of London. Laughlin gave a similar opinion. I 
swear I spent the night in searching every nook and corner 
of my mind and I was of the same opinion the next morn- 
ing. There was nothing to do then but the most unw el- 
come double duty: (1) Of continuing to carry out instruc- 
tions, at every step making a bad situation worse and 
running the risk of a rupture (which would be the only 
great crime that now remains uncommitted in the world) ; 
and (2) of trying to persuade our own Government that 
this method was the wTong method to pursue. I know T it 
is not my business to make policies, but I conceive it to be 
my business to report when they fail or succeed. Now 
if I were commanded to look throughout the whole uni- 
verse for the most unw elcome task a man may have, I 
think I should select this. But, after all, a man has 
nothing but his own best judgment to guide him; and, if 
he follow that and fail — that's all he can do. I do rever- 
ently thank God that we gave up that contention. We 
may have trouble yet, doubtless we shall, but it will not 
be trouble of our own making, as that was. 

"Tyrrell 1 came into the reception room at the Foreign 
Office the day after our withdrawal, while I was waiting 
to see Sir Edward Grey, and he said: 'I wish to tell you 
personally — just privately between you and me — how in- 
finite a relief it is to us all that your Government has with- 
drawn that demand. We couldn't accept it; our refusal 
was not stubborn nor pig-headed : it was a physical neces- 
sity in order to carry on the war with any hope of success.' 

1 Private secretary to Sir Edward Grey. 



388 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Then, as I was going out, he volunteered this remark : ' I 
make this guess — that that programme was not the work 
of the President but of some international prize court 
enthusiast (I don't know who) who had failed to secure 
the adoption of the Declaration when parliaments and 
governments could discuss it at leisure and who hoped to 
jam it through under the pressure of war and thus get 
his prize court international.' I made no answer for 
several reasons, one of which is, I do not know whose pro- 
gramme it was. All that I know is that I have here, on 
my desk at my house, a locked dispatch book half full of 
telegrams and letters insisting on it, which I do not wish 
(now at least) to put in the Embassy files, and the sight 
of which brings the shuddering memory of the worst 
nightmare I have ever suffered. 

"Now we can go on, without being a party to any gen- 
eral programme, but in an independent position vigorously 
stand up for every right and privilege under law and usage 
and treaties; and we have here a government that we can 
deal with frankly and not (I hope) hi a mood to suspect us 
of wishing to put it at a disadvantage for the sake of a 
general code or doctrine. A land and naval and air and 
submarine battle (the greatest battle in the history of the 
belligerent race of man) within 75 miles of the coast of 
England, which hasn't been invaded since 1066 and is now 
in its greatest danger since that time; and this is no time 
I fear, to force a great body of doctrine on Great Britain. 
God knows I'm afraid some American boat will run on a 
mine somewhere in the Channel or the North Sea. 
There's war there as there is on land in Germany. No- 
body tries to get goods through on land on the continent, 
and they make no complaints that commerce is stopped. 
Everybody tries to ply the Channel and the North Sea 
as usual, both of which have German and English mines 



"waging neutrality" 389 

and torpedo craft and submarines almost as thick as 
batteries along the hostile camps on land. The British 
Government (which now issues marine insurance) will not 
insure a British boat to carry food to Holland en route to 
the starving Belgians; and I hear that no government 
and no insurance company will write insurance for any- 
thing going across the North Sea. I wonder if the extent 
and ferocity and danger of this war are fully realized in 
the United States? 

"There is no chance yet effectively to talk of peace. 1 
The British believe that their civilization and their Em- 
pire are in grave danger. They are drilling an army of a 
million men here for next spring; more and more troops 
come from all the Colonies, where additional enlistments 
are going on. They feel that to stop before a decisive 
result is reached would simply be provoking another war, 
a/ter a period of dread such as they have lived through 
the last ten years ; a large and increasing proportion of the 
letters you see are on black-bordered paper and this whole 
island is becoming a vast hospital and prisoners' camp — 
all which, so far from bringing them to think of peace, 
urges them to renewed effort; and all the while the bitter- 
ness grows. 

The Straus incident 1 produced the impression here that 
it was a German trick to try to shift the responsibility 
of continuing the war, to the British shoulders. Mr. 
Sharp's bare mention of peace in Paris caused the French 
censor to forbid the transmission of a harmless interview ; 
and our insistence on the Declaration left, for the time 
being at least, a distinct distrust of our judgment and 
perhaps even of our good-will. It was suspected — I am 



x The reference is to an attempt by Germany to start peace negotiations in 
September, 1914, after the Battle of the Marne. This is described in the next 
chapter. 



390 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

sure — that the German influence in Washington had un- 
wittingly got influence over the Department. The atmos- 
phere (toward me) is as different now from what it was a 
week ago as Arizona sunshine is from a London fog, as 
much as to say, 'After all, perhaps, you don't mean to try 
to force us to play into the bands of our enemies!' " 

hi 

And so this crisis was passed; it was the first great ser- 
vice that Page had rendered the cause of the Allies 
and his own country. Yet shipping difficulties had their 
more agreeable aspects. Had it not been for the fact that 
both Page and Grey had an understanding sense of humour, 
neutrality would have proved a more difficult path than 
it actually was. Even amid the tragic problems with 
which these two men were dealing there was not lacking 
an occasional moment's relaxation into the fighter aspect 
of things. One of the curious memorials preserved in the 
British Foreign Office is the cancelled $15,000,000 check 
with which Great Britain paid the Alabama claims. That 
the British should frame this memento of their great diplo- 
matic defeat and hang it in the Foreign Office is an evi- 
dence of the fact that in statesmanship, as in less exalted 
matters, the English are excellent sportsmen. The real 
justification of the honour paid to this piece of paper, of 
course, is that the settlement of the Alabama claims by 
arbitration signalized a great forward step in international 
relations and did much tc heal a century's troubles be- 
tween the United States and Great Britain. Sir Edward 
Grey used frequently to call Page's attention to this docu- 
ment. It represented the amount of money, then con- 
sidered large, which Great Britain had paid the United 
States for the depredations on American shipping for 
which she was responsible during the Civil War. 



"waging neutrality" 391 

One day the two men were discussing certain detentions 
of American cargoes — high-handed acts which, in Page's 
opinion, were unwarranted. Not infrequently, in the heat 
of discussion, Page would get up and pace the floor. And 
on this occasion his body, as well as his mind, was in a 
state of activity. Suddenly his eye was attracted by the 
framed Alabama check. He leaned over, peered at it 
intensely, and then quickly turned to the Foreign Sec- 
retary : 

"If you don't stop these seizures, Sir Edward, some day 
you'll have your entire room papered with things like 
that!" 

Not long afterward Sir Edward in his turn scored on 
Page. The Ambassador called to present one of the many 
State Department notes. The occasion was an embar- 
rassing one, for the communication was written in the 
Department's worst literary style. It not infrequently 
happened that these notes, in the form in which Page re- 
ceived them, could not be presented to the British Govern- 
ment; they were so rasping and undiplomatic that Page 
feared that he would suffer the humiliation of having them 
returned, for there are certain things which no self-respect- 
ing Foreign Office will accept. On such occasions it was 
the practice of the London Embassy to smooth down 
the language before handing the paper to the Foreign 
Secretary. The present note was one of this kind; 
but Page, because of his friendly relations with Grey, 
decided to transmit the communication in its original 
shape. 

Sir Edward glanced over the document, looked up, and 
remarked, with a twinkle in his eye, — 

"This reads as though they thought that they are still 
talking to George the Third." 

The roar of laughter that followed was something quite 



392 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

unprecedented amid the thick and dignified walls of the 
Foreign Office. 

One of Page's most delicious moments came, however, 
after the Ministry of Blockade had been formed, with 
Lord Robert Cecil in charge. Lord Robert was high 
minded and conciliatory, but his knowledge of American 
history was evidently not without its lapses. One day, 
in discussing the ill-feeling aroused in the United States 
by the seizure of American cargoes, Page remarked ban- 
teringly : 

"You must not forget the Boston Tea Party, Lord 
Robert." 

The Englishman looked up, rather puzzled. 

"But you must remember, Mr. Page, that I have 
never been in Boston. I have never attended a tea party 
there." 

It has been said that the tact and good sense of Page 
and Grey, working sympathetically for the same end, 
avoided many an impending crisis. The trouble caused 
early in 1915 by the ship Dacia and the way in which the 
difficulty was solved, perhaps illustrate the value of this 
cooperation at its best. In the early days of the War 
Congress passed a bill admitting foreign ships to American 
registry. The wisdom and even the "neutrality " of such 
an act were much questioned at the time. Colonel House, 
in one of his early telegrams to the President, declared that 
this bill "is full of lurking dangers." Colonel House was 
right. The trouble was that many German merchant 
ships were interned in American harbours, fearing to put 
to sea, where the watchful British warships lay waiting 
for them. Any attempt to place these vessels under the 
American flag, and to use them for trade between Amer- 
ican and German ports, would at once cause a crisis 
witli the Allies, for such a paper change in ownership 



' WAGING NEUTRALITY 393 

would be altogether too transparent. Great Britain 
viewed this legislation with disfavour, but did not think it 
politic to protest such transfers generally; Spring Rice 
contented himself with informing the State Department 
that his government would not object so long as this 
changed status did not benefit Germany. If such German 
ships, after being transferred to the American flag, en- 
gaged in commerce between American ports and South 
American ports, or other places remotely removed from 
the Fatherland, Great Britain would make no difficulty. 
The Dacia, a merchantman of the Hamburg- America 
line, had been lying at her wharf in Port Arthur, Texas, 
since the outbreak of the war. In early January, 1915, 
she was purchased by Mr. E. N. Breitung, of Marquette, 
Michigan. Mr. Breitung caused great excitement in the 
newspapers when he announced that he had placed the 
Dacia under American registry, according to the terms of 
this new law, had put upon her an American crew, and 
that he proposed to load her with cotton and sail for Ger- 
many. The crisis had now arisen which the well-wishers 
of Great Britain and the United States had so dreaded. 
Great Britain's position was a difficult one. If it ac- 
quiesced, the way would be opened for placing under Amer- 
ican registry all the German and Austrian ships that were 
then lying unoccupied in American ports and using them 
in trade between the United States and the Central Powers. 
If Great Britain seized the Dacia, then there was the 
likelihood that this would embroil her with the American 
Government — and this would serve German purposes 
quite as well. 

Sir Cecil Spring Rice, the British Ambassador at Wash- 
ington, at once notified Washington that the Dacia would 
be seized if she sailed for a German port. The cotton 
which she intended to carry was at that time not contra- 



394 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

band, but the vessel itself was German and was thus sub- 
ject to apprehension as enemy property. The seriousness 
of this position was that technically the Dacia was now an 
American ship, for an American citizen owned her, she 
carried an American crew, she bore on her flagstaff the 
American flag, and she had been admitted to American 
registry under a law recently passed by Congress. How 
could the United States sit by quietly and permit 
this seizure to take place? When the Dacia sailed on 
January 23rd the excitement was keen; the voyage had 
obtained a vast amount of newspaper advertising, and the 
eyes of the world were fixed upon her. German sym- 
pathizers attributed the attitude of the American Govern- 
ment in permitting the vessel to sail as a "dare" to Great 
Britain, and the fact that Great Britain had announced 
her intention of taking up this "dare" made the situation 
still more tense. 

When matters had reached this pass Page one day 
dropped into the Foreign Office. 

" Have you ever heard of the British fleet, Sir Edward? " 
he asked. 

Grey admitted that he had, though the question obvi- 
ously puzzled him. 

"Yes," Page went on musingly. "We've all heard of 
the British fleet. Perhaps we have heard too much 
about it. Don't you think it's had too much advertis- 
mg? 

The Foreign Secretary looked at Page with an expres- 
sion that implied a lack of confidence in his sanity. 

"But have you ever heard of the French fleet?" the 
American went on. "France has a fleet too, I believe." 

Sir Edward granted that. 

" Don't you think that the French fleet ought to have a 
little advertising?" 



WAGING NEUTRALITY 395 

"What on earth are you talking about?" 

"Well," said Page, "there's the Dacia. Why not let 
the French fleet seize it and get some advertising?" 

A gleam of understanding immediately shot across 
Grey's face. The old familiar twinkle came into his eye. 

"Yes," he said, "why not let the Belgian royal yacht 
seize it?" 

This suggestion from Page was one of the great inspira- 
tions of the war. It amounted to little less than genius. 
By this time Washington was pretty wearied of the Dacia, 
for mature consideration had convinced the Department 
that Great Britain had the right on its side. Washington 
would have been only too glad to find a way out of 
the difficult position into which it had been forced, and 
this Page well understood. But this government always 
finds itself in an awkward plight in any controversy with 
Great Britain, because the hyphenates raise such a noise 
that it has difficulty in deciding such disputes upon their 
merits. To ignore the capture of this ship by the British 
would have brought all this hullabaloo again about the 
ears of the Administration. But the position of France is 
entirely different ; the memories of Lafayette and Rocham- 
beau still exercise a profound spell on the American mind; 
France does not suffer from the persecution of hyphenate 
populations, and Americans will stand even outrages from 
France without getting excited. Page knew that if the 
British seized the Dacia, the cry would go up in certain 
quarters for immediate war, but that, if France committed 
the same crime, the guns of the adversary would be spiked. 
It was purely a case of sentiment and "psychology." And 
so the event proved. His suggestion was at once acted 
on; a French cruiser went out into the Channel, seized 
the offending ship, took it into port, where a French prize 
court promptly condemned it. The proceeding did not 



396 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

cause even a ripple of hostility. The Dacia was sold to 
Frenchmen, rechristened the Yser and put to work in the 
Mediterranean trade. The episode was closed in the lat- 
ter part of 1915 when a German submarine torpedoed the 
vessel and sent it to the bottom. 

Such was the spirit which Page and Sir Edward Grey 
brought to the solution of the shipping problems of 1914- 
1917. There is much more to tell of this great task of 
"waging neutrality," and it will be told in its proper 
place. But already it is apparent to what extent these 
two men served the cause of English-speaking civili- 
zation. Neither would quibble or uphold an argument 
which he thought unjust, even though his nation might 
gain in a material sense, and neither would pitch the dis- 
cussion in any other key than forbearance and mutual 
accommodation and courtliness. For both men had the 
same end in view. They were both thinking, not of the 
present, but of the coming centuries. The cooperation 
of the two nations in meeting the dangers of autocracy 
and Prussian barbarism, in laying the foundations of a 
future in which peace, democracy, and international 
justice should be the directing ideas of human society — 
such was the ultimate purpose at which these two states- 
men aimed. And no men have ever been more splendidly 
justified by events. The Anglo-American situation of 
1914 contained dangers before which all believers in real 
progress now shudder. Had Anglo-American diplomacy 
been managed with less skill and consideration, the United 
States and Great Britain would have become involved in 
a quarrel beside which all their previous differences would 
have appeared insignificant. Mutual hatreds and hos- 
tilities would have risen that would have prevented the 
entrance of the United States into the war on the side of the 
Allies. It is not inconceivable that the history of 1812 



"waging neutrality" 397 

would have been repeated, and that the men and resources 
of this country might have been used to support purposes 
which have always been hateful to the American con- 
science. That the world was saved from this calamity is 
owing largely to the fact that Great Britain had in its 
Foreign Office a man who was always solving temporary 
irritations with his eyes constantly fixed upon a great 
goal, and that the United States had as ambassador in 
London a man who had the most exalted view of the mis- 
sion of his country, who had dedicated his life to the world- 
wide spread of the American ideal, and who believed that 
an indispensable part of this work was the maintenance of 
a sympathetic and helpful cooperation with the English- 
speaking peoples. 



CHAPTER XIII 

Germany's first peace drives 

THE Declaration of London was not the only problem 
that distracted Page in these early months of the war. 
Washington's apparent determination to make peace also 
added to his daily anxieties. That any attempt to end 
hostilities should have distressed so peace-loving and 
humanitarian a statesman as Page may seem surprising; 
it was, however, for the very reason that he was a man of 
peace that these Washington endeavours caused him end- 
less worry. In Page's opinion they indicated that Presi- 
dent Wilson did not have an accurate understanding of 
the war. The inspiring force back of them, as the Am- 
bassador well understood, was a panic-stricken Germany. 
The real purpose was not a peace, but a truce; and the 
cause which was to be advanced was not democracy but 
Prussian absolutism. Between the Battle of the Maine 
and the sinking of the Lusitania four attempts were made 
to end the war; all four were set afoot by Germany. 
President Wilson was the man to whom the Germans ap- 
pealed to rescue them from their dilemma. It is no longer 
a secret that the Germans at this time regarded their 
situation as a tragic one; the success that they had 
anticipated for forty years had proved to be a disaster. 
The attempt to repeat the great episodes of 1864, 1866, 
and 1870, when Prussia had overwhelmed Denmark, 
Austria, and France in three brief campaigns, had igno- 
miniously failed. Instead of beholding a conquered Eu- 
rope at her feet, Germany awoke from her illusion to find 

398 



Germany's first peace drives 399 

herself encompassed by a ring of resolute and powerful 
foes. The fact that the British Empire, with its immense 
resources, naval, military, and economic, was now lead- 
ing the alliance against them, convinced the most intelli- 
gent Germans that the Fatherland was face to face with 
the greatest crisis in its history. 

Peace now became the underground Germanic pro- 
gramme. Yet the Germans did not have that inexorable 
respect for facts which would have persuaded them to 
accept terms to which the Allies could consent. The 
military oligarchy were thinking not so much of saving 
the Fatherland as of saving themselves; a settlement 
which would have been satisfactory to their enemies 
would have demanded concessions which the German 
people, trained for forty years to expect an unparalleled 
victory, would have regarded as a defeat. The collapse 
of the militarists and of Hohenzollernism would have en- 
sued. What the German oligarchy desired was a peace 
which they could picture to their deluded people as a 
triumph, one that would enable them to extricate them- 
selves at the smallest possible cost from what seemed a 
desperate position, to escape the penalties of their crimes, 
to emerge from their failure with a Germany still power- 
ful, both in economic resources and in arms, and to set to 
work again industriously preparing for a renewal of the 
struggle at a more favourable time. If negotiations re- 
sulted in such a truce, the German purpose would be splen- 
didly served; even if they failed, however, the gain for 
Germany would still be great. Germany could appear as 
the belligerent which desired peace and the Entente could 
perhaps be manoeuvred into the position of the side 
responsible for continuing the war. The consideration 
which was chiefly at stake in these tortuous proceedings 
was public opinion in the United States. Americans do 



400 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

not yet understand the extent to which their country was 
regarded as the determining power. Both the German 
and the British Foreign Offices clearly understood, in 
August, 1914, that the United States, by throwing its 
support, especially its economic support, to one side or 
the other, could settle the result. Probably Germany 
grasped this point even more clearly than did Great 
Britain, for, from the beginning, she constantly nourished 
the hope that she could embroil the United States and 
Great Britain — a calamity which would have given vic- 
tory to the German arms. In every German move there 
were thus several motives, and one of the chief purposes 
of the subterranean campaigns which she now started 
for peace was the desire of putting Britain in the false 
light of prolonging the war for aggressive purposes, 
and thus turning to herself that public opinion in this 
country which was so outspoken on the side of the 
Allies. Such public opinion, if it could be brought to 
regard Germany in a tolerant spirit, could easily be 
fanned into a flame by the disputes over blockades and 
shipping, and the power of the United States might thus 
be used for the advancement of the Fatherland. On 
the other hand, if Germany could obtain a peace which 
would show a profit for her tremendous effort, then the 
negotiations would have accomplished their purpose. 

Conditions at Washington favoured operations of this 
kind. Secretary Bryan was an ultra-pacifist; like men of 
one idea, he saw only the fact of a hideous war, and he was 
prepared to welcome anything that would end hostilities. 
The cessation of bloodshed was to him the great purpose to 
be attained : in the mind of Secretary Bryan it was more 
important that the war should be stopped than that the 
Allies should win. To President Wilson the European 
disaster appeared to be merely a selfish struggle for 



Germany's first peace drives 401 

power, in which both sides were almost equally to blame. 
He never accepted Page's obvious interpretation that the 
single cause was Germany's determination to embark 
upon a war of world conquest. From the beginning, 
therefore, Page saw that he would have great difficulty in 
preventing intervention from Washington in the interest 
of Germany, yet this was another great service to which 
he now unhesitatingly directed his efforts. 

The Ambassador w as especially apprehensive of these 
peace moves in the early days of September, when the 
victorious German armies were marching on Paris. In 
London, as in most parts of the world, the capture of the 
French capital was then regarded as inevitable. Sep- 
tember 3, 1914, was one of the darkest days in modern 
times. The population of Paris was fleeing southward; 
the Government had moved its headquarters to Bordeaux; 
and the moment seemed to be at hand when the German 
Emperor would make his long anticipated entry into the 
capital of France. It was under these circumstances that 
the American Ambassador to Great Britain sent the fol- 
lowing message directly to the President: 

To the President 

American Embassy, London, 

Sep. 3, 4 a. m. 
Everybody in this city confidently believes that the 
Germans, if they capture Paris, will make a proposal for 
peace, and that the German Emperor will send you a 
message declaring that he is unwilling to shed another 
drop of blood. Any proposal that the Kaiser makes will 
be simply the proposal of a conqueror. His real purpose 
will be to preserve the Hohenzollern dynasty and the 
imperial bureaucracy. The prevailing English judgment 
is that, if Germany be permitted to stop hostilities, the 



402 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

war will have accomplished nothing. There is a determi- 
nation here to destroy utterly the German bureaucracy, 
and Englishmen are prepared to sacrifice themselves to 
any extent in men and money. The preparations that 
are being made here are for a long war ; as I read the dis- 
position and the character of Englishmen they will not 
stop until they have accomplished their purpose. There 
is a general expression of hope in this country that neither 
the American Government nor the public opinion of our 
country will look upon any suggestion for peace as a 
serious one which does not aim, first of all, at the absolute 
destruction of the German bureaucracy. 

From such facts as I can obtain, it seems clear to me 
that the opinion of Europe — excluding of course, Ger- 
many — is rapidly solidifying into a severe condemnation 
of the German Empire. The profoundest moral judg- 
ment of the world is taking the strongest stand against 
Germany and German methods. Such incidents as the 
burning of Louvain and other places, the slaughter of 
civilian populations, the outrages against women and 
children — outrages of such a nature that they cannot be 
printed, but which form a matter of common conversation 
everywhere — have had the result of arousing Great 
Britain to a mood of the grimmest determination. 

Page. 

This message had hardly reached Washington when 
the peace effort of which it warned the President began to 
take practical form. In properly estimating these ma- 
noeuvres it must be borne in mind that German diplomacy 
always worked underground and that it approached its 
negotiations in a way that would make the other side 
appear as taking the initiative. This was a phase of 
German diplomatic technique with which every Euro- 



Germany's first peace drives 403 

pean Foreign Office had long been familiar. Count Bern- 
storff arrived in the United States from Germany in the 
latter part of August, evidently with instructions from 
his government to secure the intercession of the United 
States. There were two unofficial men in New York who 
were ideally qualified to serve the part of intermediaries. 
Mr. James Speyer had been born in New York; he had 
received his education at Frankfort-on-the-Main, Ger- 
many, and had spent his apprenticeship also in the family 
banking house in that city. As the head of an American 
banking house with important German affiliations, his 
interests and sympathies were strong on the side of the 
Fatherland; indeed, he made no attempt to conceal his 
strong pro-Germanism. 

Mr. Oscar S. Straus had been born in Germany; his 
father had been a German revolutionist of 'Forty-eight; 
like Carl Schurz, Abraham Jacobi, and Franz Sigel, 
he had come to America to escape Prussian militarism and 
the Prussian autocracy, and his children had been edu- 
cated in a detestation of the things for which the German 
Empire stood. Mr. Oscar Straus was only two years old 
when he was brought to this country, and he had given 
the best evidences of his Americanism in a distinguished 
public career. Three times he had served the United 
States as Ambassador to Turkey ; he had filled the post of 
Secretary of Commerce and Labour in President Roose- 
velt's cabinet, and had held other important public 
commissions. Among his other activities, Mr. Straus 
had played an important part in the peace movement of 
the preceding quarter of a century and he had been a 
member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The 
Hague. Mr. Straus was on excellent terms with the 
German, the British, and the French ambassadors at 
Washington. As far back as 1888, when he was American 



404 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Minister at Constantinople, Bernstorff, then a youth, 
was an attache at the German Embassy; the young Ger- 
man was frequently at the American Legation and used 
to remind Mr. Straus, whenever he met him in later 
years, how pleasantly he remembered his hospitality. 
With Sir Cecil Spring Rice, the British Ambassador, and 
M. Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador, Mr. Straus 
had also become friendly in Constantinople and in Wash- 
ington. This background, and Mr. Straus's well-known 
pro-British sentiments, would have made him a desirable 
man to act as a liaison agent between the Germans and 
the Allies, but there were other reasons why this ex- 
ambassador would be useful at this time. Mr. Straus 
had been in Europe at the outbreak of the war; he had 
come into contact with the British statesmen in those 
exciting early August days ; in particular he had discussed 
all phases of the conflict with Sir Edward Grey, and before 
leaving England, he had given certain interviews which 
the British statesmen declared had greatly helped their 
cause in the United States. Of course, the German 
Government knew all about these activities. 

On September 4th, Mr. Straus arrived at New T York on 
the Mauretania. He had hardly reached this country 
when he was called upon the telephone by Mr. Speyer, a 
friend of many years' standing. Count Bernstorff, the 
German Ambassador, Mr. Speyer said, was a guest at 
his country home, Waldheim, at Scarboro, on the Hud- 
son; Mr. Speyer was giving a small, informal dinner 
the next evening, Saturday, September 5th, and he asked 
Mr. and Mrs. Straus to come. The other important 
guests were Mr. Frank A. Vanderlip, president of the 
National City Bank, and Mrs. Vanderlip. Mr. Straus 
accepted the invitation, mentally resolving that he would 
not discuss the war himself, but merely listen. It would 



Germany's first peace drives 405 

certainly have been a difficult task for any man to avoid 
this subject on this particular evening; the date was 
September 5th, the day when the German Army sud- 
denly stopped in its progress toward Paris, and began 
retreating, the French and the British forces in pursuit. 
A few r minutes before Count BernstorfF sat down at Mr. 
Speyer's table, with Mr. Straus opposite, he had learned 
that the magnificent enterprise which Germany had 
planned for forty years had failed, and that his country 
was facing a monstrous disaster. The Battle of the 
Marne was raging in all its fury while this pacific con- 
versation at Mr. Speyer's house was taking place. 

Of course the war became the immediate topic of dis- 
cussion. Count Bernstorff at once plunged into the 
usual German point of view — that Germany did not want 
war in the first place, that the Entente had forced the 
issue, and the like. 

"The Emperor and the German Government stood 
for peace," he said. 

Naturally, a man who had spent a considerable part of 
his life promoting the peace cause pricked up his ears at 
this statement. 

"Does that sentiment still prevail in Germany?" 
asked Mr. Straus. 

"Yes," replied the German Ambassador. 

"Would your government entertain a proposal for 
mediation now?" asked Mr. Straus. 

"Certainly," Bernstorff promptly replied. He has- 
tened to add, however, that he was speaking unofficially. 
He had had no telegraphic communication from Berlin 
for five days, and therefore could not definitely give the 
attitude of his government. But he was quite sure that 
the Kaiser would be glad to have President Wilson take 
steps to end the war. 



406 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

The possibility that he might play a part in bringing 
hostilities to a close now occurred to Mr. Straus. He had 
come to the dinner determined to avoid the subject alto- 
gether, but Count Bernstorff had precipitated the issue 
in a way that left the American no option. Certainly 
Mr. Straus would have been derelict if he had not reported 
this conversation to the high quarters for which Count 
Bernstorff had evidently intended it. 

"That is a very important statement you have made, 
Mr. Ambassador," said Mr. Straus, measuring every 
word. "May I make use of it?" 
"Yes." 

"May I use it in any way I choose?" 
"You may," replied Bernstorff. 

Mr. Straus saw in this acquiescent mood a chance to 
appeal directly to President Wilson. 

"Do you object to my laying this matter before our 
government?" 
"No, I do not." 

Mr. Straus glanced at his watch; it was 10:15 o'clock. 
"I think I shall go to Washington at once— this very 
night. I can get the midnight train." 

Mr. Speyer, who has always maintained that this pro- 
ceeding was casual and in no way promoted by himself 
and Bernstorff, put in a word of caution. 
"I would sleep on it," he suggested. 
But, in a few moments, Mr. Straus was speeding in his 
automobile through Westchester County in the direction 
of the Pennsylvania Station. He caught the express, 
and, the next morning, which was Sunday the sixth, he 
was laying the whole matter before Secretary Bryan at the 
latter's house. Naturally, Mr. Bryan was overjoyed at 
the news; he at once summoned Bernstorff from New 
York to Washington, and went over the suggestion per- 



GERMANY S FIRST PEACE DRIVES 407 

sonally. The German Ambassador repeated the state- 
ments which he had made to Mr. Straus — always guard- 
edly qualifying his remarks by saying that the proposal 
had not come originally from him but from his Ameri- 
can friend. Meanwhile Mr. Bryan asked Mr. Straus to 
discuss the matter with the British and French ambas- 
sadors. 

The meeting took place at the British Embassy. The 
two representatives of the Entente, though only too glad 
to talk the matter over, were more skeptical about the 
attitude of BernstorfT than Mr. Bryan had been. 

"Of course, Mr. Straus," said Sir Cecil Spring Rice, 
"you know that this dinner was arranged purposely so 
that the German Ambassador could meet you?" 

Mr. Straus demurred at this statement, but the Eng- 
lishman smiled. 

"Do you suppose," Sir Cecil asked, "that any am- 
bassador would make such a statement as BernstorfF 
made to you without instructions from his govern- 
ment?" 

"You and M. Jusserand," replied the American, "have 
devoted your whole lives to diplomacy with distinguished 
ability and you can therefore answer that question better 
than I." 

"I can assure you," replied M. Jusserand, "that no 
ambassador under the German system would dare for a 
moment to make such a statement without being author- 
ized to do so." 

"The Germans," added Sir Cecil, "have a way of 
making such statements unofficially and then denying 
that they have ever made them." 

Both the British and French ambassadors, however, 
thought that the proposal should be seriously considered. 

"If it holds out one chance in a hundred of lessening 



408 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

the length of the war, we should entertain it," said Am- 
bassador Jusserand. 

"I certainly hope that you will entertain it cordially," 
said Mr. Straus. 

"Not cordially — that is a little too strong." 

' ' Well, sympathetically ? ' ' 

"Yes, sympathetically," said M. Jusserand, with a 
smile. 

These facts were at once cabled to Page, who took the 
matter up with Sir Edward Grey. A despatch from the 
latter to the British Ambassador in Washington gives a 
splendid summary of the British attitude on such ap- 
proaches at this time. 

Sir Edward Jrey to Sir Cecil Spring Rice 

Foreign Office, 

September 9, 1914. 
Sir: 

The American Ambassador showed me to-day a com- 
munication that he had from Mr. Bryan. It was to the 
effect that Mr. Straus and Mr. Speyer had been talking 
with the German Ambassador, who had said that, though 
he was without instructions, he thought that Germany 
might be disposed to end the war by mediation. This 
had been repeated to Mr. Bryan, who had spoken to the 
German Ambassador, and had heard the same from 
him. Mr. Bryan had taken the matter up, and was 
asking direct whether the German Emperor would ac- 
cept mediation if the other parties who were at war would 
do the same. 

The American Ambassador said to me that this in- 
formation gave him a little concern. He feared that, 
coming after the declaration that we had signed last week 
with France and Russia about carrying on the war in 



Germany's first peace drives 409 

common, 1 the peace parties in the United States might 
be given the impression that Germany was in favour of 
peace, and that the responsibility for continuing the war 
was on others. 

I said that the agreement that we had made with 
France and Russia was an obvious one; when three 
countries were at war on the same side, one of them could 
not honourably make special terms for itself and leave 
the others in the lurch. As to mediation, I was favour- 
able to it in principle, but the real question was: On 
what terms could the war be ended? If the United 
States could devise anything that would bring this war 
to an end and prevent another such war being forced on 
Europe I should welcome the proposal. 

The Ambassador said that before the war began I had 
made suggestions for avoiding it, and that these sugges- 
tions had been refused. 

I said that this was so, but since the war began there 
were two further considerations to be borne in mind : We 
were fighting to save the west of Europe from being dom- 
inated by Prussian militarism; Germany had prepared to 
the day for this war, and we could not again have a great 
military power in the middle of Europe preparing war in 
this way and forcing it upon us ; and the second thing was 
that cruel wrong had been done to Belgium, for which 
there should be some compensation. I had no indication 
whatever that Germany was prepared to make any 
reparation to Belgium, and, while repeating that in 
principle I was favourable to mediation, I could see 
nothing to do but to wait for the reply of the German 
Emperor to the question that Mr. Bryan had put to him 

*On September 5, 1914, Great Britain, France, and Russia signed the Pact of 
London, an agreement which bound the three powers of the Entente to make war 
and peace as a unit. Each power speciflcally pledged itself not to make a separate 
peace. 



410 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

and for the United States to ascertain on what terms 
Germany would make peace if the Emperor's reply was 
favourable to mediation. 

The Ambassador made it quite clear that he regarded 
what the German Ambassador had said as a move in the 
game. He agreed with what I had said respecting terms 
of peace, and that there seemed no prospect at present of 
Germany being prepared to accept them. 

I am, &c, 

E. Grey. 

A letter from Page to Colonel House gives Page's in- 
terpretation of this negotiation : 

To Edward M. House 

London, September 10, 1914. 
My dear House: 

A rather serious situation has arisen: The Germans of 
course thought that they would take Paris. They were 
then going to propose a conqueror's terms of peace, which 
they knew would not be accepted. But they would use 
their so-called offer of peace purely for publicity pur- 
poses. They would say, "See, men of the world, we want 
peace; we offer peace; the continuance of this awful war 
is not our doing." They are using Hearst for this pur- 
pose. I fear they are trying to use so good a man as 
Oscar Straus. They are fooling the Secretary. 

Every nation was willing to accept Sir Edward Grey's 
proposals but Germany. She was bent on a war of 
conquest. Now she's likely to get licked — lock, stock 
and barrel. She is carrying on a propaganda and a pub- 
licity campaign all over the world. The Allies can't and 
won't accept any peace except on the condition that Ger- 
man militarism be uprooted. They are not going to live 



GERMANY S FIRST PEACE DRIVES 411 

again under that awful shadow and fear. They say 
truly that life on such terms is not worth living. More- 
over, if Germany should win the military control of 
Europe, she would soon — that same war-party — attack 
the United States. The war will not end until this con- 
dition can be imposed — that there shall be no more mili- 
tarism. 

But in the meantime, such men as Straus (a good 
fellow) may be able to let (by helping) the Germans ap- 
pear to the Peace people as really desiring peace. Of 
course, what they want is to save their mutton. 

And if we begin mediation talk now on that basis, we 
shall not be wanted when a real chance for mediation 
comes. If we are so silly as to play into the hands of the 
German-Hearst publicity bureau, our chance for real 
usefulness will be thrown away. 

Put the President on his guard. 

W. H. P. 

In the latter part of the month came Germany's reply. 
One would never suspect, when reading it, that Germany 
had played any part in instigating the negotiation. The 
Kaiser repeated the old charges that the Entente had 
forced the war on the Fatherland, that it was now de- 
termined to annihilate the Central Powers and that con- 
sequently there was no hope that the warring countries 
could agree upon acceptable terms for ending the struggle. 

So ended Germany's first peace drive, and in the only 
possible way that it could end. But the Washington ad- 
ministration continued to be most friendly to mediation. 
A letter of Colonel House's, dated October 4, 1914, pos- 
sesses great historical importance. It was written after 
a detailed discussion with President Wilson, and it in- 
dicates not only the President's desire to bring the struggle 



412 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

to a close, but it describes in some detail the principles 
which the President then regarded as essential to a per- 
manent peace. It furnishes the central idea of the pres- 
idential policy for the next four years ; indeed, it contains 
the first statement of that famous "Article X" of the 
Covenant of the League of Nations which was Mr. Wil- 
son's most important contribution to that contentious 
document. This was the article which pledges the 
League "to respect and preserve as against external ag- 
gression the territorial integrity and existing political in- 
dependence" of all its members; it was the article which, 
more than any other, made the League obnoxious to 
Americans, who interpreted it as an attempt to involve 
them perpetually in the quarrels of Europe; and it was 
the one section of the Treaty of Versailles which was most 
responsible for the rejection of that document by the 
United States Senate. There are other suggestions in 
Colonel House's letter which apparently bore fruit in the 
League Covenant. It is somewhat astonishing that a let- 
ter of Colonel House's, written as far back as October 3, 
1914, two months after the outbreak of the war, should 
contain "Article X" as one of the essential terms of 
peace, as well as other ideas afterward incorporated in 
that document, accompanied by an injunction that Page 
should present the suggestion to Sir Edward Grey: 

From Edward M. House 

115 East 53rd Street, 
New York City. 
October 3rd, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

Frank [the Ambassador's son] has just come in and has 
given me your letter of September 22nd 1 which is of ab- 

jPublishcd in Chapter XI, page 327. 



Germany's first peace drives 413 

sorbing interest. You have never done anything better 
than this letter, and some day, when you give the word, 
it must be published. But in the meantime, it will repose 
in the safe deposit box along with your others and with 
those of our great President. 

I have just returned from Washington where I was with 
the President for nearly four days. He is looking well 
and is well. Sometimes his spirits droop, but then again, 
he is his normal self. 

Before I came from Prides 1 I was fearful lest Straus, 
BernstorfF, and others would drive the President into 
doing something unwise. I have always counselled him 
to remain quiet for the moment and let matters unfold 
themselves further. In the meantime, I have been con- 
ferring with BernstorfF, with Dumba, 2 and, of course, 
Spring Rice. The President now wants me to keep in 
touch with the situation, and I do not think there is 
any danger of any one on the outside injecting liimself 
into it unless Mr. Bryan does something on his own 
initiative. 

Both Bernstorff and Dumba say that their countries 
are ready for peace talks, but the difficulty is with Eng- 
land. Sir Cecil says their statements are made merely to 
place England in a false position. 

The attitude, I think, for England to maintain is the 
one which she so ably put forth to the world. That is, 
peace must come only upon condition of disarmament 
and must be permanent. I have a feeling that Germany 
will soon be willing to discuss terms. I do not agree 
that Germany has to be completely crushed and that 
terms must be made either in Berlin or London. It is 
manifestly against England's interest and the interest of 

Colonel House's summer home in Massachusetts. 
2 Amhassador from Austria-Hungary to the United States. 



414 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

Europe generally for Russia to become the dominating 
military force in Europe, just as Germany was. The 
dislike which England has for Germany should not blind 
her to actual conditions. If Germany is crushed, Eng- 
land cannot solely write the terms of peace, but Russia's 
wishes must also largely prevail. 

With Russia strong in militarism, there is no way by 
which she could be reached. Her government is so con- 
stituted that friendly conversations could not be had with 
her as they might be had even with such a power as Ger- 
many, and the world would look forward to another cat- 
aclysm and in the not too distant future. 

When peace conversations begin, at best, they will 
probably continue many months before anything tangible 
comes from them. England and the Allies could readily 
stand on the general proposition that only enduring peace 
will satisfy them and I can see no insuperable obstacle 
in the way. 

The Kaiser did not want war and was not responsible 
for it further than his lack of foresight which led him to 
build up a formidable engine of war which later domi- 
nated him. Peace cannot be made until the war party 
in Germany find that their ambitions cannot be realized, 
and this, I think, they are beginning to know. 

When the war is ended and the necessary territorial 
alignments made, it seems to me, the best guaranty of 
peace could be brought by every nation in Europe guar- 
anteeing the territorial integrity of every other nation. 1 
By confining the manufacture of arms to the governments 
themselves and by permitting representatives of all 
nations to inspect, at any time, the works. 2 

! This, with certain modifications is Article 10 of the Covenant of the League 
«f Nations. 

-There is a suggestion of these provisions in Article 8 of the League Covenant. 



Germany's first peace drives 415 

Then, too, all sources of national irritation should be 
removed so what at first may be a sore spot cannot grow 
into a malignant disease. 1 It will not be too difficult, I 
think, to bring about an agreement that will insure per- 
manent peace, provided all the nations of Europe are 
honest in their desire for it. 

I am writing this to you with the President's knowl- 
edge and consent and with the thought that it will be 
conveyed to Sir Edward. There is a growing impatience 
in this country because of this war and there is constant 
pressure upon the President to use his influence to bring 
about normal conditions. He does not wish to do any- 
thing to irritate or offend any one of the belligerent na- 
tions, but he has an abiding faith in the efficacy of open 
and frank discussion between those that are now at war. 

As far as I can see, no harm can be done by a dispas- 
sionate discussion at this stage, even though nothing 
comes of it. In a way, it is perhaps better that informal 
and unofficial conversations are begun and later the 
principals can take it up themselves. 

I am sure that Sir Edward is too great a man to let any 
prejudices deter him from ending, as soon as possible, the 
infinite suffering that each day of war entails. 

Faithfully yours, 
E. M. House. 

It is apparent that the failure of this first attempt at 
mediation discouraged neither Bernstorff nor the Wash- 
ington administration. Colonel House was constantly 
meeting the German and the British Ambassadors; he 
was also, as his correspondence shows, in touch with 
Zimmermann, the German Under Foreign Secretary. 
The German desire for peace grew stronger in the autumn 

1 Article 11 of the League Covenant reflects the influence of this idea. 



416 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

and winter of 1914-1915, as the fact became more and 
more clear that Great Britain was summoning all her re- 
sources for the greatest effort in her history, as the stale- 
mate on the Aisne more and more impressed upon the 
German chieftains the impossibility of obtaining any de- 
cision against the French Army, and as the Russians 
showed signs of great recuperation after the disaster of 
Tannenberg. By December 4th Washington had evidently 
made up its mind to move again. 

From Edward M. House 

115 East 53rd Street, 

New York City. 
December 4th, 1914. 
Dear Page: 

The President desires to start peace parleys at the very 
earliest moment, but he does not wish to offend the sensi- 
bilities of either side by making a proposal before the 
time is opportune. He is counting upon being given a 
hint, possibly through me, in an unofficial way, as to when 
a proffer from him will be acceptable. 

Pressure is being brought upon him to offer his ser- 
vices again, for this country is suffering, like the rest of 
the neutral world, from the effects of the war, and our 
people are becoming restless. 

Would you mind conveying this thought delicately to 
Sir Edward Grey and letting me know what he thinks? 

Would the Allies consider parleys upon a basis of in- 
demnity for Belgium and a cessation of militarism? If 
so, then something may be begun with the Dual Alliance. 

I have been told that negotiations between Russia and 
Japan were carried on several months before they agreed 
to meet at Portsmouth. The havoc that is being wrought 
in human lives and treasure is too great to permit racial 



Germany's first peace drives 417 

feeling or revenge to enter into the thoughts of those who 
govern the nations at war. 

I stand ready to go to Germany at any moment in 
order to sound the temper of that government, and I 
would then go to England as I did last June. 

This nation would not look with favour upon a policy 
that held nothing but the complete annihilation of the 
enemy. 

Something must be done sometime, by somebody, to 
initiate a peace movement, and I can think of no way, at 
the moment, than the one suggested. 

I will greatly appreciate your writing me fully and 
freely in regard to this phase of the situation. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

To this Page immediately replied : 

To Edward M. House 

December 12th, 1914. 
My dear House: 

The English rulers have no feeling of vengeance. I 
have never seen the slightest traces of that. But they 
are determined to secure future safety. They will not 
have this experience repeated if they can help it. They 
realize now that they have been living under a sort of 
fear — or dread — for ten years: they sometimes felt that 
it was bound to come some time and then at other times 
they could hardly believe it. And they will spend all the 
men and all the money they have rather than suffer that 
fear again or have that danger. Now, if anybody could 
fix a basis for the complete restoration of Belgium, so far 
as restoration is possible, and for the elimination of mili- 
tarism, I am sure the English would talk on that basis. 



418 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

But there are two difficulties — Russia wouldn't talk till 
she has Constantinople, and I haven't found anybody 
who can say exactly what you mean by the ''elimination 
of militarism." Disarmament? England will have her 
navy to protect her incoming bread and meat. How, 
then, can she say to Germany, "You can't have an army"P 
You say the Americans are becoming "restless." The 
plain fact is that the English people, and especially the 
English military and naval people, don't care a fig what 
the Americans think and feel. They say, "We're fight- 
ing their battle, too — the battle of democracy and free- 
dom from bureaucracy — why don't they come and help 
us in our life-and-death struggle?" I have a drawer 
full of letters saying this, not one of which I have ever 
answered. The official people never say that of course — 
nor the really responsible people, but a vast multitude of 
the public do. This feeling comes out even in the pres- 
ent military and naval rulers of this Kingdom — comes 
indirectly to me. A part of the public, then, and the 
military part of the Cabinet, don't longer care for Amer- 
ican opinion and they resent even such a reference to 
peace as the President made in his Message to Congress. 1 
But the civil part of the Cabinet and the responsible and 
better part of the public do care very much. The Presi- 
dent's intimation about peace, however, got no real 
response here. They think he doesn't understand the 
meaning of the war. They don't want war ; they are not 
a warlike people. They don't hate the Germans. There 
is no feeling of vengeance. They constantly say: "Why 



'From the President's second message to Congress, December 8. 1914: "It is 
our dearest present hope that this character and reputation may presently, in 
God's providence, bring us an opportunity, such as has seldom been vouchsafed 
any nation, to counsel and obtain peace in the world and reconciliation and a 
healing settlement of many a matter that has cooled and interrupted the friend- 
ship of nations." 



Germany's first peace drives 419 

do the Germans hate us? We don't hate them." But, 
since Germany set out to rule the world and to conquer 
Great Britain, they say, "We'll all die first." That's 
"all there is to it." And they will all die unless they can 
so fix things that this war cannot be repeated. Lady 
K — , as kindly an old lady as ever lived, said to me the other 
day: "A great honour has come to us. Our son has 
been killed in battle, fighting for the safety of England." 

Now, the question which nobody seems to be able to 
answer is this: How can the military party and the 
military spirit of Germany be prevented from continuing 
to prepare for the conquest of Great Britain and from 
going to work to try it again? That implies a change in 
the form, spirit, and control of the German Empire. If 
they keep up a great army, they will keep it up with that 
end more or less in view. If the military party keeps in 
power, they will try it again in twenty-five or forty years. 
This is all that the English care about or think about. 

They don't see how it is to be done themselves. All 
they see yet is that they must show the Germans that 
they can't whip Great Britain. If England wins de- 
cisively the English hope that somehow the military 
party will be overthrown in Germany and that the 
Germans, under peaceful leadership, will go about their 
business — industrial, political, educational, etc. — and quit 
dreaming of and planning for universal empire and quit 
maintaining a great war-machine, which at some time, 
for some reason, must attack somebody to justify its ex- 
istence. This makes it difficult for the English to make 
overtures to or to receive overtures from this military 
war-party which now is Germany. But, if it be possible 
so completely to whip the war party that it will somehow 
be thrown out of power at home — that's the only way 
they now see out of it. To patch up a peace, leaving the 



420 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

German war party in power, they think, would be only to 
invite another war. 

If you can get over this point, you can bring the Eng- 
lish around in ten minutes. But they are not going to 
take any chances on it. Read English history and 
English literature about the Spanish Armada or about 
Napoleon. They are acting those same scenes over 
again, having the same emotions, the same purpose: 
nobody must invade or threaten England. "If they do, 
we'll spend the last man and the last shilling. We value," 
they say truly, "the good-will and the friendship of the 
United States more than we value anything except our 
own freedom, but we'll risk even that rather than admit 
copper to Germany, because every pound of copper pro- 
longs the war." 

There you are. I've blinked myself blind and talked 
myself hoarse to men in authority — from Grey down — to 
see a way out — without keeping this intolerable slaughter 
up to the end. But they stand just where I tell you. 

And the horror of it no man knows. The news is sup- 
pressed. Even those who see it and know it do not 
realize it. Four of the crack regiments of this kingdom 
— regiments that contained the flower of the land and to 
which it was a distinction to belong — have been practi- 
cally annihilated, one or two of them annihilated twice. 
Yet their ranks are filled up and you never hear a mur- 
mur. Presently it'll be true that hardly a title or an 
estate in England will go to its natural heir — the heir has 
been killed. Yet, not a murmur; for England is threat- 
ened with invasion. They'll all die first. It will pres- 
ently be true that more men will have been killed in this 
war than were killed before in all the organized wars since 
the Christian era began. The English are willing and 
eager to stop it if things can be so fixed that there will be 



Germany's first peace drives 421 

no military power in Europe that wishes or prepares to 
attack and invade England. 

I've had many one-hour, two-hour, three-hour talks 
with Sir Edward Grey. He sees nothing further than I 
have written. He says to me often that if the United 
States could see its way to cease to protest against 
stopping war materials from getting into Germany, they 
could end the war more quickly — all this, of course, in- 
formally; and I say to him that the United States will 
consider any proposal you will make that does not in- 
fringe on a strict neutrality. Violate a rigid neutrality 
we will not do. And, of course, he does not ask that. I 
give him more trouble than all the other neutral Powers 
combined; they all say this. And, on the other side, his 
war-lord associates in the Cabinet make his way hard. 

So it goes — God bless us, it's awful. I never get away 
from it — war, war, war every waking minute, and the 
worry of it; and I see no near end of it. I've had only 
one thoroughly satisfactory experience in a coon's age, 
and this was this: Two American ships were stopped the 
other day at Falmouth. I telegraphed the captains to 
come here to see me. I got the facts from them — all the 
facts. I telephoned Sir Edward that I wished to see him 
at once. I had him call in one of his ship-detaining 
committee. I put the facts on the table. I said, "By 
what right, or theory of right, or on what excuse, are those 
ships stopped? They are engaged in neutral commerce. 
They fly the American flag." One of them was released 
that night — no more questions asked. The other was 
allowed to go after giving bond to return a lot of kerosene 
which was loaded at the bottom of the ship. 

If I could get facts, I could do many things. The State 
Department telegraphs me merely what the shipper says 
— a partial statement. The British Government tells me 



422 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

(after infinite delay) another set of facts. The British 
Government says, "We're sorry, but the Prize Court 
must decide." Our Government wires a dissertation on 
International Law— Protest, protest: (I've done nothing 
else since the world began!) One hour with a sensible 
ship captain does more than a month of cross-wrangling 
with Government Departments. 

I am trying my best, God knows, to keep the way as 
smooth as possible; but neither government helps me. 
Our Government merely sends the shipper's ex-parte state- 
ment. This Government uses the Navy's excuse. . . . 
At present, I can't for the life of me see a way to peace, 
for the one reason I have told you. The Germans wish 
to whip England, to invade England. They started with 
their army toward England. Till that happened England 
didn't have an army. But I see no human power that 
can give the English now what they are determined to 
have — safety for the future — till some radical change is 
made in the German system so that they will no longer 
have a war-party any more than England has a war- 
party. England surely has no wish to make conquest of 
Germany. If Germany will show that she has no wish 
to make conquest of England, the war would end to- 
morrow. 

What impresses me through it all is the backwardness 
of all the Old World in realizing the true aims of govern- 
ment and the true methods. I can't see why any man 
who has hope for the progress of mankind should care 
to live anywhere in Europe. To me it is all infinitely sad. 
This dreadful war is a logical outcome of their condition, 
their thought, their backwardness. I think I shall never 
care to see the continent again, which of course is com- 
mitting suicide and bankruptcy. When my natural 
term of service is done here, I shall go home with more 



Germany's first peace drives 423 

joy than you can imagine. That's the only home for a 
man who wishes his horizon to continue to grow wider. 
All this for you and me only — nobody else. 

Heartily yours, 

Walter H. Page. 

Probably Page thought that this statement of the case 
— and it was certainly a masterly statement — would end 
any attempt to get what he regarded as an unsatisfactory 
and dangerous peace. But President Wilson could not 
be deterred from pressing the issue. His conviction was 
firm that this winter of 1914-1915 represented the most 
opportune time to bring the warring nations to terms, 
and it was a conviction from which he never departed. 
After the sinking of the Lusitania the Administration 
gazed back regretfully at its frustrated attempts of the 
preceding winter, and it was inclined to place the re- 
sponsibility for this failure upon Great Britain and 
France. "The President's judgment," wrote Colonel 
House on August 4, 1915, three months after the Lusi- 
tania went down, "was that last autumn was the time to 
discuss peace parleys, and we both saw present possibili- 
ties. War is a great gamble at best, and there was too 
much at stake in this one to take chances. I believe if 
one could have started peace parleys in November, we 
could have forced the evacuation of both France and 
Belgium, and finally forced a peace which would have 
eliminated militarism on land and sea. The wishes of 
the Allies were heeded with the result that the war has 
now fastened itself upon the vitals of Europe and what 
the end may be is beyond the knowledge of man." 

This shows that the efforts which the Administration 
was making were not casual or faint-hearted, but that 
they represented a most serious determination to bring 



424 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

hostilities to an end. This letter and the correspondence 
which now took place with Page also indicate the general 
terms upon which the Wilson Administration believed 
that the mighty differences could be composed. The 
ideas which Colonel House now set forth were probably 
more the President's than his own; he was merely the 
intermediary in their transmission. They emphasized 
Mr. Wilson's conviction that a decisive victory on either 
side would be a misfortune for mankind. As early as 
August, 1914, this was clearly the conviction that 
underlay all others in the President's interpretation of 
events. His other basic idea was that militarism should 
come to an end "on land and sea"; this could mean 
nothing except that Germany was expected to abandon 
its army and that Great Britain was to abandon its navy. 

From Edward M. House 

115 East 53rd Street, 
New York City. 
January 4th, 1915. 
Dear Page: 

I believe the Dual Alliance is thoroughly ready for 
peace and I believe they would be willing to agree upon 
terms England would accept provided Russia and France 
could be satisfied. 

They would, in my opinion, evacuate both Belgium and 
France and indemnify the former, and they would, I think, 
be willing to begin negotiations upon a basis looking to 
permanent peace. 

It would surprise me if the Germans did not come out 
in the open soon and declare that they have always been 
for peace, that they are for peace now, and that they are 
willing to enter into a compact which would insure peace 
for all time; that they have been misrepresented and 



Germany's first peace drives 425 

maligned and that they leave the entire responsibility 
for the continuation of the war with the Allies. 

If they should do this, it would create a profound im- 
pression, and if it was not met with sympathy by the Allies, 
the neutral sentiment, which is now almost wholly against 
the Germans, would veer toward them. 

Will you not convey this thought to Sir Edward and let 
me know what he says? 

The President is willing and anxious for me to go to 
England and Germany as soon as there is anything 
tangible to go on, and whenever my presence will be wel- 
come. The Germans have already indicated this feeling 
but I have not been able to get from Spring Rice any 
expression from his Government. 

As I told you before, the President does not wish to 
offend the sensibilities of any one by premature action, 
but he is, of course, enormously interested in initiating at 
least tentative conversations. 

Will you not advise me in regard to this? 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

From Edward M. House 

115 East 53rd Street, 
New York City. 
January 18, 1915. 
Dear Page: 

The President has sent me a copy of your confidential 
dispatch No. 1474, January 15th. 

The reason you had no information in regard to what 

General French mentioned was because no one knew of it 

outside of the President and myself and there was no safe 

way to inform you. 

As a matter of fact, there has been no direct proposal 



426 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

made by anybody. I have had repeated informal talks 
with the different ambassadors and I have had direct 
communication with Zimmermann, which has led the 
President and me to believe that peace conversations may 
be now initiated in an unofficial way. 

This is the purpose of my going over on the Lusitania, 
January 30th. When I reach London I will be guided by 
circumstances as to whether I shall go next to France or 
Germany. 

The President and I find that we are going around in a 
circle in dealing with the representatives in Washington, 
and he thinks it advisable and necessary to reach the 
principals direct. When I explain just what is in the 
President's mind, I believe they will all feel that it was 
wise for me to come at this time. 

I shall not write more fully for the reason I am to see 
you so soon. 

I am sending tins through the kindness of Sir Horace 

Plunkett. Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

P. S. We shall probably say, for public consumption, 
that I am coming to look into relief measures, and see what 
further can be done. Of course, no one but you and Sir 
Edward must know the real purpose of my visit. 

Why was Colonel House so confident that the Dual 
Affiance was prepared at this time to discuss terms of 
peace? Colonel House, as his letter shows, was in com- 
munication with Zimmermann, the German Under For- 
eign Secretary. But a more important approach had 
just been made, though information bearing on this had 
not been sent to Page. The Kaiser had asked President 
Wilson to transmit to Great Britain a suggestion for mak- 
ing peace on the basis of surrendering Belgium and of 



Germany's first peace drives 427 

paying for its restoration. It seems incredible that the 
Ambassador should not have been told of this, but Page 
learned of the proposal from Field Marshal French, then 
commanding the British armies in the field, and this ac- 
counts for Colonel House's explanation that, "the reason 
you had no information, in regard to what General French 
mentioned was because no one knew of it outside of the 
President and myself and there was no safe way to inform 
you." Page has left a memorandum which explains the 
whole strange proceeding — a paper which is interesting 
not only for its contents, but as an illustration of the un- 
official way in which diplomacy was conducted in Wash- 
ington at this time : 

Field Marshal Sir John French, secretly at home from 
Ins command of the English forces in France, invited me 
to luncheon. There were his especially confidential friend 
Moore, the American who lives with him, and Sir John's 
private secretary. The military situation is this : a trench 
stalemate in France. Neither army has made appreciable 
progress in three months. Neither can advance without 
a great loss of men. Neither is whipped. Neither can 
conquer. It would require a million more men than the 
Allies can command and a very long time to drive the 
Germans back across Belgium. Presently, if the Russians 
succeed in driving the Germans back to German soil, 
there will be another trench stalemate there. Thus the 
war wears a practically endless outlook so far as military 
operations are concerned. Germany has plenty of men 
and plenty of food for a long struggle yet; and, if she use 
all the copper now in domestic use in the Empire, she will 
probably have also plenty of ammunition for a long strug- 
gle. She is not nearly at the end of her rope either in a 
military or an economic sense. 



428 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

What then? The Allies are still stronger — so long as 
they hold together as one man. But is it reasonable to 
assume that they can? And, even if they can, is it worth 
while to win a complete victory at such a cost as the lives 
of practically all the able-bodied men in Europe? But 
can the Allies hold together as one man for two or three 
or four years? Well, what are we going to do? And here 
came the news of the lunch. General French informed 
me that the President had sent to England, at the request 
of the Kaiser, a proposal looking toward peace, Germany 
offering to give up Belgium and to pay for its restoration. 

"This," said Sir John, "is their fourth proposal." 

"And," he went on, "if they will restore Belgium and 
give Alsace-Lorraine to France and Constantinople will 
go to Russia, I can't see how we can refuse it." 

He scouted the popular idea of "crushing out mili- 
tarism " once for all. It would be desirable, even if it were 
not necessary, to leave Germany as a first-class power. 
We couldn't disarm her people forever. We've got to 
leave her and the rest to do what they think they must 
do; and we must arm ourselves the best we can against 
them. 

Now — did General French send for me and tell me this 
just for fun and just because he likes me? He was very 
eager to know my opinion whether this peace offer were 
genuine or whether it was a trick of the Germans to — 
publish it later and thereby to throw the blame for con- 
tinuing the war on England? 

It occurs to me as possible that he was directed to tell 
me what he told, trusting to me, in spite of his protesta- 
tions of personal confidence, etc., to get it to the President. 
Assuming that the President sent the Kaiser's message 
to the King, this may be a suggested informal answer — 
that if the offer be extended to give France and Russia 



Germany's first peace drives 429 

what they want, it will be considered, etc. This may or 
may not be true. Alas! the fact that I know nothing 
about the offer has no meaning; for the State Depart- 
ment never informs me of anything it takes up with the 
British Ambassador in Washington. Well, I'll see. 

These were therefore the reasons why Colonel House 
had decided to go to Europe and enter into peace nego- 
tiations with the warring powers. Colonel House was 
wise in taking all possible precautions to conceal the pur- 
pose of this visit. His letter intimates that the German 
Government was eager to have him cross the ocean on 
this particular mission; it discloses, on the other hand, 
that the British Government regarded the proposed 
negotiations with no enthusiasm. Sir Edward Grey 
and Mr. Asquith would have been glad to end hostili- 
ties on terms that would permanently establish peace 
and abolish the vices which were responsible for the 
war, and they were ready to welcome courteously the 
President's representative and discuss the situation with 
him in a fair-minded spirit. But they did not believe 
that such an enterprise could serve a useful purpose. 
Possibly the military authorities, as General French's 
remarks to Page may indicate, did not believe that either 
side could win a decisive victory, but this was not the be- 
lief of the British public itself. The atmosphere in Eng- 
land at that time was one of confidence in the success of 
British arms and of suspicion and distrust of the British 
Government. A strong expectation prevailed in the 
popular mind, that the three great Powers of the Entente 
would at an early date destroy the menace which had 
enshrouded Europe for forty years, and there was no in- 
tention of giving Germany a breathing spell during which 
she could regenerate her forces to resume the onslaught. 



430 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

In the winter of 1915 Great Britain was preparing for the 
naval attack on the Dardanelles, and its success was re- 
garded as inevitable. Page had an opportunity to observe 
the state of optimism which prevailed in high British 
circles. In March of 1915 he was visiting the Prime 
Minister at Walmer Castle; one afternoon Mr. Asquith 
took him aside, informed him of the Dardanelles prepara- 
tions and declared that the Allies would have possession 
of Constantinople in two weeks. The Prime Minister's 
attitude was not one of hope; it was one of confidence. 
The capture of Constantinople, of course, would have 
brought an early success to the allied army on all fronts. 1 
This was the mood that was spurring on the British public 
to its utmost exertions, and, with such a determination 
prevailing everywhere, a step in the direction of peace was 
the last thing that the British desired; such a step could 
have been interpreted only as an attempt to deprive the 
Allies of their victory and as an effort to assist Germany 
in escaping the consequences of her crimes. Combined 
with this stout popular resolve, however, there was a lack 
of confidence in the Asquith ministry. An impression 
was broadcast that it was pacifist, even "defeatist," in its 
thinking, and that it harboured a weak humanitarianism 
which was disposed to look gently even upon the behaviour 
of the Prussians. The masses suspected that the ministry 
would welcome a peace with Germany which would mean 
little more than a cessation of hostilities and which would 
leave the great problems of the war unsolved. That this 
opinion was unjust, that, on the contrary, the British 
Foreign Office was steadily resisting all attempts to end the 



!The opening of the Dardanelles would have given Russian agricultural products 
access to the markets of the world and thus have preserved the Russian economic 
structure. It would also have enabled the Entente to munition the Russian 
Army. With a completely equipped Russian Army in the East and the Entente 
Army in the West, Germany could not long have survived the pressure. 



Germany's first peace drives 431 

war on an unsatisfactory basis, Page's correspondence, al- 
ready quoted, abundantly proves, but this unreasoning 
belief did prevail and ikwas an important element in the 
situation. This is the reason why the British Cabinet re- 
garded Colonel House's visit at that time with positive 
alarm. It feared that, should the purpose become known, 
the British public and press would conclude that the 
Government had invited a peace discussion. Had any 
such idea seized the popular mind in February and March, 
1915, a scandal would have developed which would prob- 
ably have caused the downfall of the Asquith Ministry. 
"Don't fool yourself about peace," Page writes to his 
son Arthur, about this time. "If any one should talk 
about peace, or doves, or ploughshares here, they'd shoot 
him." 

Colonel House reached London early in February and 
was soon in close consultation with the Prime Minister 
and Sir Edward Grey. He made a great personal success ; 
the British statesmen gained a high regard for his dis- 
interestedness and his general desire to serve the cause of 
decency among nations; but he made little progress in his 
peace plans, simply because the facts were so discouraging 
and so impregnable. Sir Edward repeated to him what he 
had already said to Page many times : that Great Britain 
was prepared to discuss a peace that would really safe- 
guard the future of Europe, but was not prepared to dis- 
cuss one that would merely reinstate the regime that had 
existed before 1914. The fact that the Germans were 
not ready to accept such a peace made discussion use- 
less. Disappointed at this failure, Colonel House left for 
Berlin. His letters to Page show that the British judg- 
ment of Germany was not unjust and that the warn- 
ings which Page had sent to Washington were based on 
facts : 



432 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

From Edward M. House 

Embassy of the United States of America, 

Berlin, Germany, 
March 20, 1915. 
Dear Page: 

I arrived yesterday morning and I saw Zimmermann 1 
almost immediately. He was very cordial and talked to 
me frankly and sensibly. 

I tried to bring about a better feeling toward England, 
and told him how closely their interests touched at certain 
points. I also told him of the broad way in which Sir 
Edward was looking at the difficult problems that con- 
fronted Europe, and I expressed the hope that this view 
would be reciprocated elsewhere, so that, when the final 
settlement came, it could be made in a way that would 
be to the advantage of mankind. 

The Chancellor is out of town for a few days and I shall 
see him when he returns. I shall also see Ballin, Von 
Gwinner, and many others. I had lunch yesterday with 
Baron von Wimpsch who is a very close friend of the 
Emperor. 

Zimmermann said that it was impossible for them to 
make any peace overtures, and he gave me to understand 
that, for the moment, even what England would perhaps 
consent to now, could not be accepted by Germany, to say 
nothing of what France had in mind. 

I shall hope to establish good relations here and 
then go somewhere and await further developments. I 
even doubt whether more can be done until some decisive 
military result is obtained by one or other of the bellig- 
erents. 



German Under Foreign Secretary. 



Germany's first peace drives 433 

I will write further if there is any change in the situation. 
I shall probably be here until at least the 27th. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

From Edward M. House 

Embassy of the United States of America, 

Berlin, Germany. 

March 26, 1915. 
Dear Page: 

While I have accomplished here much that is of value, 
yet I leave sadly disappointed that no direct move can be 
made toward peace. 

The Civil Government are ready, and upon terms that 
would at least make an opening. There is also a large 
number in military and naval circles that I believe would 
be glad to begin parleys, but the trouble is mainly with 
the people. It is a very dangerous thing to permit a peo* 
pie to be misled and their minds inflamed either by the 
press, by speeches, or otherwise. 

In my opinion, no government could live here at this 
time if peace was proposed upon terms that would have 
any chance of acceptance. Those in civil authority 
that I have met are as reasonable and fairminded as their 
counterparts in England or America, but, for the mo- 
ment, they are impotent. 

I hear on every side the old story that all Germany 
wants is a permanent guaranty of peace, so that she may 
proceed upon her industrial career undisturbed. 

I have talked of the second convention, 1 and it has been 
cordially received, and there is a sentiment here, as well as 

Ut was the Wilson Administration's plan that there should be two peace gather- 
ings, one of the belligerents to settle the war, and the other of belligerents and 
neutrals, to settle questions of general importance growing out of the war. This 
latter is what Colonel House means by "the second convention." 



434 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

elsewhere, to make settlement upon lines broad enough to 
prevent a recurrence of present conditions. 

There is much to tell you verbally, which I prefer not 
to write. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

Colonel House's next letter is most important, for it 
records the birth of that new idea which afterward be- 
came a ruling thought with President Wilson and the 
cause of almost endless difficulties in his dealings with 
Great Britain. The "new phase of the situation" to 
which he refers is "the Freedom of the Seas" and this 
brief note to Page, dated March 27, 1915, contains the 
first reference to this idea on record. Indeed, it is evident 
from the letter itself that Colonel House made this no- 
tation the very day the plan occurred to him. 

From Edward M. House 

Embassy of the United States of America, 

Berlin, Germany. 
March 27, 1915. 
Dear Page: 

I have had a most satisfactory talk with the Chancellor. 
After conferring with Stovall, 1 Page, 2 and Willard, 3 I shall 
return to Paris and then to London to discuss with Sir 
Edward a phase of the situation which promises results. 

I did not think of it until to-day and have mentioned it 
to both the Chancellor and Zimmermann, who have re- 
ceived it cordially, and who join me in the belief that it 
may be the first thread to bridge the chasm , 

'Mr. Pleasant A. Stovall, American Minister to Switzerland. 
2 Mr. Thomas Nelson Page, American Ambassador to Italy. 
3 Mr. Joseph E. Willard, American Ambassador to Spain. 



GERMANY S FIRST PEACE DRIVES 435 

I am writing hastily, for the pouch is waiting to be 
closed. 

Faithfully yours, 

E. M. House. 

The "freedom of the seas "was merely a proposal to make 
all merchant shipping, enemy and neutral, free from at- 
tack in time of war. It would automatically have ended 
all blockades and all interference with commerce. Ger- 
many would have been at liberty to send all her merchant 
ships to sea for undisturbed trade with all parts of the 
world in war time as in peace, and, in future, navies would 
be used simply for fighting. Offensively, their purpose 
would be to bombard enemy fortifications, to meet enemy 
ships in battle, and to convoy ships which were transport- 
ing troops for the invasion of enemy soil; defensively, 
their usefulness would consist in protecting the homeland 
from such attacks and such invasions. Perhaps an argu- 
ment can be made for this new rule of warfare, but it is at 
once apparent that it is the most startling proposal 
brought forth in modern times in the direction of disarma- 
ment. It meant that Great Britain should abandon that 
agency of warfare with which she had destroyed Napoleon, 
and with which she expected to destroy Germany in the 
prevailing struggle — the blockade. From a defensive 
standpoint, Colonel House's proposed reform would have 
been a great advantage to Britain, for an honourable ob- 
servance of the rule would have insured the British people 
its food supply in wartime. With Great Britain, however, 
the blockade has been historically an offensive measure: 
it is the way in which England has always made war. 
Just what reception this idea would have had with official 
London, in April, 1915, had Colonel House been able to 
present it as his own proposal, is not clear, but the Germans, 



436 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WALTER H. PAGE 

with characteristic stupidity, prevented the American 
from having a fair chance. The Berlin Foreign Office at 
once cabled to Count BernstorfF and Bernhard Dernburg 
— the latter a bovine publicity agent who was then pro- 
moting the German cause in the American press— with 
instructions to start a "propaganda" in behalf of the 
"freedom of the seas." By the time Colonel House 
reached London, therefore, these four words had been 
adorned with the Germanic label. British statesmen 
regarded the suggestion as coming from Germany and not 
from America, and the reception was worse than cold. 

And another horror now roughly interrupted President 
Wilson's attempts at mediation. Page's letters have dis- 
closed that he possessed almost a clairvoyant faculty of 
foreseeing approaching events. The letters of the latter 
part of April and of early May contain many forebodings 
of tragedy. "Peace? Lord knows when!" he writes to 
his son Arthur on May 2nd. "The blowing up of a liner 
with American passengers may be the prelude. I almost 
expect such a thing." And again on the same date: "If 
a British liner full of American passengers be blown up, 
what will Uncle Sam do? That's what's going to happen." 

"We all have the feeling here," the Ambassador writes 
on May 6th, "that more and more frightful things are 
about to happen." 

The ink on those words was scarcely dry when a message 
from Queenstown was handed to the American Ambassa- 
dor. A German submarine had torpedoed and sunk the 
Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale, and one hundred 
and twenty -four American men, women, and children had 
been drowned. 

END OF VOLUME I